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Avalanche VS. Kings

Scouting Report

April 18, 2002

OFFENSE

With Jason Allison, Ziggy Palffy and Adam Deadmarsh leading the way, the Kings pack more offensive firepower. But that might not be the case if Peter Forsberg can pick up where he left off after an 11-month layoff and Milan Hejduk, suffering from an abdominal injury, is able to return. Hejduk, sidelined for the last 20 games of the regular season, has skated but has yet to take contact. Forsberg's return could open things up for Joe Sakic, whose numbers dipped in his absence.

Edge: Kings.

DEFENSE

Unsung veterans Mattias Norstrom, Aaron Miller, Mathieu Schneider and Jaroslav Modry, their top-scoring defenseman, provide a solid defense corps for the Kings, and only the high-scoring Detroit Red Wings got more points from their defensemen. Rob Blake, Adam Foote and Darius Kasparaitis of the Avalanche, however, might be the top three defensemen in the series. The Avalanche gave up a league-low 169 goals, setting a franchise record.

Edge: Avalanche.

GOALTENDING

Patrick Roy might be the best goaltender in NHL history and he just wrapped up the best regular season of his career, compiling a league-leading and career-best 1.96 goals-against average. But Felix Potvin also enjoyed a stellar season, his 2.31 goals-against average ranking as a career best. Last season, he shut out the Avalanche in Games 5 and 6, forcing a do-or-die game won by Roy.

Edge: Avalanche.

POWER PLAY

With 37 points in 73 games, Allison was the league's second-leading point-producer on the power play, spearheading a unit that led the league with 73 power-play goals, 15 by Palffy. The Kings converted 20.7% of their power-play opportunities to lead the league. The Avalanche was fifth, converting 18%.

Edge: Kings.

PENALTY KILLING

Only a few weeks ago the Kings looked like a good bet to become the first team since the 1984-85 New York Islanders to lead the league in both power-play conversion and penalty-killing percentage, but then they gave up 11 power-play goals in six games and that was that. Still, they were third in the league, killing 86.6%. The Avalanche was slightly better, killing 87%.

Edge: Avalanche.

COACHING

Neither Andy Murray of the Kings nor Bob Hartley will win the Adams Trophy as the NHL's coach of the year, but each should at least be considered. Murray rallied the Kings from an 8-14-4-2 start and also overcame a near-fatal auto accident to lead the Kings into the playoffs for the third consecutive season. And Hartley, without Forsberg and retired defenseman Ray Bourque, guided the Avalanche to its eighth consecutive division title, matching a league record.

Edge: Even.

INTANGIBLES

Unbeaten in their last 11 home games, the Kings also are winless in their last six road games. So you can guess why Murray was so upset when they put forth such a lackluster effort Saturday at San Jose, when they still had a chance to earn home-ice advantage in the first round. The return of Forsberg will give the Avalanche an emotional lift, but Roy will be the difference in the series.

Edge: Avalanche.

PREDICTION

The Avalanche in six.

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