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May 28, 1997|HELENE ELLIOTT

The Detroit Red Wings, who won the Western Conference championship on Monday by completing a six-game triumph over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, are scheduled to resume practice today after taking Tuesday off.

But the Philadelphia Flyers, who clinched the Eastern Conference title on Sunday, were on the Red Wings' minds as soon as they skated off the ice at Joe Louis Arena. The teams will meet in the finals--and for the first time ever in the playoffs--beginning Saturday at Philadelphia.

"The Flyers are on a roll right now. What happened is they've gotten stronger," said Detroit Coach Scotty Bowman, who has won six Cups as a coach, second only in NHL history only to the eight won by Toe Blake. "I told our team they wouldn't win if they didn't get to the next level, and that's what has happened to the Flyers. They're a big, strong team that has had only three losses [in the playoffs]."

Detroit left wing Brendan Shanahan was also impressed by what he saw of the Flyers' march to the finals. "They just tore through the East. They're hungry for the Cup, as we are," he said.

The Red Wings haven't won the Cup since 1955 and were swept by New Jersey in their last trip to the finals, in 1995. The Flyers last won in 1975 and haven't been in the finals since 1987, when they lost to Edmonton in seven games.

"I think we match up pretty well," said Detroit defenseman Bob Rouse. "And we're playing pretty disciplined. Every series we've played, we've had some explosive scorers to contend with, and we're going to have our hands full with [Flyer center Eric] Lindros."

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