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Stanley Cup Section

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  Stanley Cup Finals Preview

Stanley Cup Logo The Washington Post
Tuesday, June 8, 1999; Page D4

What: Dallas Stars vs. Buffalo Sabres.
Regular-season records: Dallas 51-19-12, 114 points; Buffalo 37-28-17, 91 points.
Season series: Tied 1-1.
Road to the finals: Dallas-Beat Edmonton, 4-0; beat St. Louis, 4-2; beat Colorado, 4-3. Buffalo-Beat Ottawa, 4-0; beat Boston, 4-2; beat Toronto, 4-1.
Outlook: Both teams are trying to win their first Stanley Cup. It is the Stars' first appearance in the finals since moving from Minnesota, where the franchise made the championship round twice. As the Minnesota North Stars, they lost to the New York Islanders in 1981 and to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991. The Sabres lost in their only finals appearance, to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975. Dallas won the teams' first meeting of the season on Oct. 10, scoring three power-play goals against Dominik Hasek in a 4-1 victory at Reunion Arena. Rookie Martin Biron earned his first career victory, filling in for the injured Hasek, in the Sabres' 2-1 win at Marine Midland Arena on March 5.

Jason Woolley leads Buffalo in playoff scoring with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists), followed by Curtis Brown, Michael Peca and Alexei Zhitnik (12 points each). Brown leads the team with seven goals-three game-winners. Miroslav Satan, the Sabres' leading scorer (40 goals, 26 assists) in the regular season, returned in the Eastern Conference finals after missing the semifinals with a foot injury. Hasek – who is likely to win his third straight Vezina Trophy, fifth in six years, as the league's top goalie – has a 1.82 goals-against average and a save percentage of .938 in the postseason. The Sabres, unbeaten in seven home games, have had eight days to rest since eliminating Toronto. Hasek will have to be in top form if Buffalo is to extend the series and have a chance at winning.

Dallas' strength is playing coach Ken Hitchcock's disciplined defensive system and wearing down its foes. The Stars, who won the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team for the second straight season, are 7-2 at home in the playoffs. Sixth in the league in power-play percentage during the regular season, Dallas struggled with the man advantage in the first two rounds (5 for 52), but was 5 for 28 against the Avalanche. Joe Nieuwendyk (nine goals, nine assists) has five game-winners-including two in overtime. Mike Modano has 16 points, including 11 assists, followed by Jamie Langenbrunner (nine goals, five assists). Goalie Ed Belfour and the Stars' defense shut down Colorado in Games 6 & 7 of the Western Conference finals-both 4-1 victories. Belfour also had a shutout in Game 3 and has a .927 save percentage and a 1.83 GAA in the playoffs.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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