Volume 96, Issue 98
Thursday, April 3, 2003
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Dallas Stars in the West

By Brian Potocnik
Gazette Writer

With the exception of the New Jersey Devils triumph in 2000, the Western Conference has had a monopoly on the Stanley Cup since 1996. Chances are, Stanley will be travelling west once again.

Detroit Red Wings: After defecting from the Maple Leafs for a better chance at the Cup, it's time for Curtis Joseph to step up. The defending champions remain a top performer in the west, but whether this aging team has the ability to withstand the grind of the playoffs remains to be seen. The Wings will likely pass the first round, but further success will depend on how much they have left in the tank after a tough series.

Dallas Stars: A year after missing the post-season, the Stars are back as contenders. The addition of Bill Guerin has been a huge asset and the only question mark remains how green goalie Marty Turco will fair in his first post-season as a starter. The Stars' roster is solid from top to bottom. Dallas is headed back to the Stanley Cup Finals

Vancouver Canucks: Canada's best chance from the Western Conference is banking on MVP candidate Markus Naslund to lead the way and goalie Dan Cloutier to remain healthy. Fans of Canadian teams are hoping a first-round match-up with Edmonton will be avoided.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche are trying to chase down Vancouver to win the Northwest Division, something they have done in every year of the division's inception. These perennial contenders could once again be a force due to the likes of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy. A probable first-round clash with St. Louis could reach game 7.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues consistently make the playoffs - they also consistently bow out early on. The deadline acquisition of goalie Chris Osgood will be a useful asset, but St. Louis will be the odd team out in a conference stacked with powerhouses.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks: Paul Kariya has led the Ducks to their first playoff birth in four years. Veteran leadership from Adam Oates, Steve Thomas and Sandis Ozolinsh has brought this team a long way, but it will not be enough to advance past the first-round.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild have qualified for the post-season in only their third year of existence. Led by young superstar Marion Gaborik, the Wild have a bright future ahead of them and playoff experience will be very beneficiary to them. A possible match-up with the Dallas Stars, formerly of Minnesota, could generate a series full of emotion and bad blood.

Edmonton Oilers: After missing last year's run for Lord Stanley, the Oilers are back in the game. Out of the lower-seeded teams, the high-flying Oilers may have the best opportunity at upsetting one of the major contenders in the west. Goaltender Tommy Salo will have to come up big and Todd Marchant will need to lead the way offensively if Edmonton is to have any hope.

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