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Western finals


No. 1 Stars (49-22-11) vs. No. 3 Red Wings (44-23-15)

Season series: Red Wings won, 2-1-2.

How they got here: Stars beat Sharks in six games and Oilers in five; Red Wings beat Coyotes in six games and Blues in six.

Top playoff scorers: Stars: Mike Modano 3-7--10; Red Wings: Steve Yzerman 3-13--16.

Playoff power play: Stars: 12.9 percent (11th); Red Wings: 15.9 percent (sixth).

Playoff penalty killing: Stars: 88.7 percent (fourth); Red Wings: 84.7 percent (eighth).

Outlook: Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock sacrificed Modano's offense against Edmonton and assigned him to neutralize Doug Weight. That worked, but the Stars can't afford to give up Modano's scoring touch against the balanced Red Wings. Dallas has gotten timely contributions from Benoit Hogue (a team-leading four goals) and grit from late-season acquisitions Mike Keane and Brian Skrudland, but the Stars scored only 11 goals against Edmonton and they're averaging only 2.27 goals in the playoffs. Detroit is averaging 3.92. Detroit's defense is older and less physical than Dallas', but the Red Wings are smart and play their positions well. One pivotal matchup will be in goal. The edge appears to go to Dallas' Ed Belfour, who has a .937 save percentage and playoff-best 1.41 goals-against average, but he's not considered a winner. Chris Osgood has had some shaky moments -- ask St. Louis defenseman Al MacInnis about his 90-footer in Game 3 against Detroit -- but he and his team rarely have two bad games in a row. Scotty Bowman remains the master behind the bench, juggling his extra defensemen with uncanny efficiency. The Red Wings are resilient, talented and poised to repeat as champions.

Pub Date: 5/24/98

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