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Tuesday, April 6, 2004
Updated: April 27, 1:46 AM ET
Breakdown: Avalanche vs. Stars

By Brian Engblom
Special to ESPN.com

EDGE
5-on-5
Dallas is the second-lowest scoring team among Western Conference playoff teams and Colorado has more offensive weapons than maybe any team in the league. The Stars were a different team at the start of the season than they are now and have become very solid defensively, but they struggle putting the puck in the net. If the Avs' talented forwards can keep the puck on their sticks, Colorado has a decided advantage.

KEY PLAYERS
COLORADO
Peter Forsberg
If he is the dominant, unstoppable force we've seen in previous playoff seasons there will be a lot more room on the ice for his linemates.
DALLAS
Sergei Zubov
The Stars play their best hockey when Zubov controls the puck, contributes on offense and is solid in his own end.
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EVEN
Colorado power play vs. Dallas penalty kill
The Stars' Marty Turco is the best goalie in the Western Conference but Colorado was third in the league with 74 power play goals. The Avs gave up 14 shorthanded goals, though, which could come back to haunt them if the power play gets loose. It looks even on the surface, so the deciding factors will be Turco's play and the discipline of the Colorado penalty killers.

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Dallas power play vs. Colorado penalty kill
The Stars inabiliy to score regularly hurt them on the power play as well with just a 15.9 percent success rate, and while Colorado finished just 16th in the NHL in penalty killing the tighter play seen in the posteason favors the Avalanche.

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Goaltending
Colorado's David Aebischer had not gotten enough credit for his strong play while replacing a legend like Patrick Roy, but Turco is the Stars' best player and the main reason they finished where they did. When the rest of the team was floundering he got his game in shape and carried Dallas, so don't expect that to change in the playoffs.

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EVEN
Coaching
Dallas' Dave Tippett has a little more experience than his counterpart Tony Granato, but the offensive talent Granato has up and down his bench will make up for that.

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Intangibles
The Avalanche have faced questions all year about how all its new players are fitting in and how the chemistry has developed, so there is pressure to prove the moves worked out. And don't forget the pressure of having lost Game 7 at home in last year's first-round series against Minnesota. Dallas does not have home-ice advantage in terms of number of games but is one of the few teams in the west that has a true advantage in its home building.

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Prediction
Colorado in six