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Western Conference Finals

No. 1 Dallas (51-19-12) vs. No. 2 Colorado (44-28-10)


Game 1: Saturday, 4:30 p.m., at Dallas.

* Season series: Colorado 2-1-1.

* Top scorers: Dallas--Mike Modano 34 goals, 47 assists--81 points. Colorado--Peter Forsberg 30-67--97.

* Team goals-against average: Dallas 2.02 (first). Colorado 2.47 (11th).

* Power play: Dallas 18.8% (sixth). Colorado 18.9% (fifth).

* Penalty killing: Dallas 86.5% (sixth). Colorado 83.7% (17th).

* Playoff power play: Dallas 5-52 (9.6%). Colorado 12-72 (16.7%).

* Playoff penalty killing: Dallas 41-45 (91.1%), Colorado 63-77 (77.9%).

* Top playoff scorers: Dallas--Modano 4-7--11. Colorado--Forsberg 6-11--17.

* How they got here: Dallas defeated Edmonton in four games and St. Louis in six. Colorado defeated San Jose and Detroit in six games each.

* Keys: It's now or never for the aging Stars, who are making their second successive trip to the West finals. They were tested by St. Louis but prevailed largely because of exceptional play from Joe Nieuwendyk, who was injured last spring and is hitting his stride after undergoing surgery on both knees last summer. Nieuwendyk, Modano and Guy Carbonneau (expected back in mid-series after spraining a knee) give them depth up the middle, and Brett Hull--although relatively quiet with only two goals and seven points--is always a scoring threat. Jere Lehtinen, the NHL's top two-way player, complements Hull and Modano perfectly. Colorado, in its third trip to the conference finals in four years, can answer Dallas' 1-2 center punch with Forsberg and Joe Sakic and up the ante with speedy Adam Deadmarsh, who has a team-high seven goals. There's plenty of toughness on both teams, but both must be disciplined. Colorado must be prepared to gut it out against a defense that's more physical than Detroit's, but the Avalanche proved its resilience and determination in rallying to defeat the Red Wings. The longer the series, the better for Colorado, which is younger and deeper offensively. Colorado goalie Patrick Roy is playing too well to pick against him. Colorado in six.

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