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Western Conference Capsules

April 21, 1999|HELENE ELLIOTT

NO. 1 DALLAS (51-19-12) vs. NO. 8 EDMONTON (33-37-12)

* Season series: Dallas 3-0-1.

* Top scorers: Dallas--Mike Modano 34-47--81. Edmonton--Bill Guerin 30-34--64.

* Team goals-against average: Dallas 2.02 (first). Edmonton--2.71 (18th).

* Power play: Dallas 18.8% (sixth). Edmonton 14.4% (18th).

* Penalty killing: Dallas 86.5% (sixth). Edmonton 82.1% (21st).

* Keys for Dallas: Dallas goalie Ed Belfour has been known to crack under duress, but the forwards and defense are disciplined enough to spare him prolonged pressure. However, defensively, Richard Matvichuk is questionable because of a groin injury and banger Derian Hatcher has five games left on a suspension. Brett Hull (32 goals, 58 points) adapted defensively and still scored 15 power-play goals.

* Keys for Oilers: They lack the Stars' depth, size, experience in goal and defensive smarts, but they have superior speed and younger legs. They will miss forwards Guerin and Jozef Beranek, who have knee injuries, but they finished the season on an upswing and earned the last West playoff spot. Goalie Tommy Salo must be flawless, and he won't.

* Prediction: Dallas in five.

NO. 2 COLORADO (44-28-10) vs. NO. 7 SAN JOSE (31-33-18)

* Season series: Colorado 3-1.

* Top scorers: Colorado--Peter Forsberg 30-67--97. San Jose--Jeff Friesen 22-35--57.

* Team goals-against average: Colorado 2.47 (11th). San Jose 2.28 (fifth).

* Power play: Colorado 18.9% (fifth). San Jose 13.3% (23rd).

* Penalty killing: Colorado 83.7% (17th). San Jose 85.0% (13th).

* Keys for Colorado: The Avalanche soared after the All-Star break, compiling a 23-9-6 record. Acquiring right wing Theo Fleury from Calgary gave them another scoring threat and a healthy dose of competitiveness. Joe Sakic (41 goals, 96 points) and Forsberg are the best 1-2 center combination in the NHL and will give the Sharks nightmares.

* Keys for San Jose: The Sharks' defensive game improved enormously, but not enough to handle the Avalanche's three solid lines. Shark forwards Jeff Friesen and Alex Korolyuk have stepped up in the last month and must sustain that. The Sharks plan to play a physical game, but that may backfire. If their power play were better, this would be closer.

* Prediction: Colorado in five.

NO. 3 DETROIT (43-32-7) vs. NO. 6 MIGHTY DUCKS (35-34-13)

* Season series: Detroit 3-1.

* Top scorers: Detroit--Steve Yzerman 29-45--74. Ducks--Teemu Selanne 47-60--107.

* Team goals-against average: Detroit 2.44 (10th). Ducks 2.48 (12th).

* Power play: Detroit 16.1% (11th). Ducks 22% (first).

* Penalty killing: Detroit 87.3% (third). Ducks 84.5% (14th).

* Keys for Detroit: The two-time defending Cup champion Red Wings got a huge boost from trade-deadline-day acquisitions of Chris Chelios, Ulf Samuelsson, Wendel Clark and Bill Ranford. They have no weaknesses. They're tough, skillful, deep on the wings and up the middle and have a veteran defense that is cleverly handled by Coach Scotty Bowman to avoid overworking the older players.

* Keys for Mighty Ducks: The Ducks peaked a month ago and ended on a puzzling 1-5-1 slide. When NHL goal-scoring leader Selanne and line mate Paul Kariya (39 goals, 101 points) use their speed to create chaos among opposing defensemen, the Ducks are dangerous. An injury-free Steve Rucchin is essential to their chances. Even if his groin problem has healed, they will have a tough time.

* Prediction: Red Wings in five.

NO. 4 PHOENIX (39-31-12) vs. NO. 5 ST. LOUIS (37-32-13)

* Season series: St. Louis 2-1-1.

* Top scorers: Phoenix--Jeremy Roenick 24-48--72. St. Louis--Pavol Demitra 37-52--89.

* Team goals-against average: Phoenix 2.37 (eighth). St. Louis 2.51 (13th).

* Power play: Phoenix 12% (26th). St. Louis 20.3% (third).

* Penalty killing: Phoenix 87.1% (fifth). St. Louis 87.9% (second).

* Keys for Phoenix: Every West team wanted to play the Coyotes, figuring them to be vulnerable in every area--and they are, with Roenick out indefinitely after surgery to fix his broken jaw. They can be brilliant or awful, but they lose heart if they don't take an early lead.

* Keys for St. Louis: The Blues struggled most of the season because of knee injuries suffered by Grant Fuhr (2.44 goals-against average) and left wing Geoff Courtnall's concussion. They played well in the final month of the season, led by Slovakian winger Pavol Demitra, center Pierre Turgeon (31 goals, 65 points) and Norris Trophy contender Al MacInnis. Their penalty killing is excellent, and if their power play clicks, this will be swift.

* Prediction: Blues in five.

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