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Stars’ Modano Is Key to Series

May 16, 2000

DALLAS (AP) _ Two games into the Stanley Cup Western Conference finals, it is evident that Dallas Stars center Mike Modano holds the key to the series.

In Saturday’s Game 1, the Colorado Avalanche banged and battered Modano, giving him little room to operate. They even sent him over the boards into their own bench in the first period. Modano managed just three shots and Colorado won 2-0.

Modano came out more aggressive Monday in Game 2, seeking out hits and creating his own space on the ice. His attacking style led to a game-high seven shots, including four in the second period. He scored two goals as Dallas won 3-2.

Modano’s play helped the Stars even the series and put them in the same position as last year’s conference finals _ tied 1-1 and headed to Colorado for Game 3 on Friday. Dallas won that series in seven games.

``I think Modano is a player who has made strong adjustments,″ Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. ``I think sometimes when the game doesn’t have physical play, he goes to sleep and tries to play the game on the move.″

In addition to being more aggressive, Modano was also more comfortable.

He skated on a line for most of the season with Brett Hull and Brenden Morrow. Jere Lehtinen, who had played the same line with Modano and Hull during their Stanley Cup run last season, sat out most of the season with a broken ankle.

Lehtinen returned Saturday on a different line, but was reunited with his old linemates Monday when Morrow went down with a broken ankle. The trio combined for 16 shots _ six fewer than Colorado _ and scored all three goals.

``It’s been about 10 months, six screws (in Lehtinen’s ankle), two concussions (Modano) and a torn stomach muscle (Hull),″ Modano said. ``But we’re together again and it feels good finally.″

Colorado had a tough time containing Modano and teammates without its top two defensemen.

Ray Bourque skated with the team Monday morning, but sat out his fourth consecutive game with an injured leg.

Less than three minutes into Game 2, the Avalanche lost its next best defender, Adam Foote, when he accidentally got hit in the face with Lehtinen’s stick. Foote had been instrumental in stopping Modano in Game 1.

``It’s tough to lose Foote like that, but that is no excuse,″ said Peter Forsberg, who pulled Colorado within 3-2 in the third period. ``We have to do better than we did.″

Colorado should have a better shot at slowing Modano with Bourque and Foote expected to play Friday.

Bourque said after Monday’s morning skate that he was feeling good. Foote flew home with the team and his vision was fine, according to coach Bob Hartley.

During the final month of the season, Hitchcock and teammates said Modano was playing the best hockey of his career. He has continued the trend in the playoffs.

The two scores Monday gave Modano eight goals and 12 points in 12 games. He set a career high with an eight-game point streak before Dallas was shut out in Game 1.

Modano also scored goals in the first four games of the Stars’ second-round series with San Jose and has goals in eight of the last 11 games.

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