Red Wings, Avs stretch rivalry to Game 7

Friday, May 31, 2002

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche admitted feeling both anxious and excited about their Game 7 showdown in the Western Conference finals.

The fierce rivals who have combined for four of the past six Stanley Cup titles will meet for the final time this season tonight at Joe Louis Arena, with the winner advancing to face Carolina in the Stanley Cup finals.

"It's probably good to be a little nervous," Colorado's Adam Foote said. "I'm sure everybody will be feeling it because Game 7s are like that."

The defending champion Avalanche should know.

Colorado is the first NHL team to play in four consecutive Game 7s, joining the 1993 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only teams to play three Game 7s in one postseason.

The Avalanche have won four straight Game 7s since losing to Dallas in 2000 Western Conference Finals.

"We have a pretty good streak going with Game 7s, so we have to be real positive and think about that," Colorado's Patrick Roy said. "I don't want to say that gives us an edge, but it gives us the right to be confident."

The Red Wings will play in their first Game 7 since beating St. Louis 1-0 in overtime of the 1996 Western Conference semifinals, but Detroit's Brendan Shanahan downplayed the significance of that fact.

"A lot of us have played in elimination tournaments, like the World Cup and the Olympics, where every game is a Game 7," Shanahan said. "You learn from that and you learn how to relax yourself and to get to sleep when your nerves are trying to prevent you from doing so."

HURRICANES: Carolina would rather work than wait.

Too bad for them, the Hurricanes will have plenty of time off heading into the franchise's first Stanley Cup finals.

The Hurricanes won the Eastern Conference championship over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. They won't play Game 1 of the Cup finals until Tuesday.

The gap in the schedule was created when Carolina won its series over Toronto in six games, while the Red Wings forced a Game 7 with Colorado in the Western finals on Friday night by beating the Avalanche 2-0.

"I wanted to start Saturday, but that's just the way things worked out," Glen Wesley said Thursday after a second straight day of off-ice workouts. "You really get into a rhythm mentally and that's the toughest thing we're going to have to deal with and prepare for when we get ready to go next week. We've got to stay mentally focused during practice these next few days."

Of the regulars, only David Tanabe, who has been out since the New Jersey series with a broken wrist, and Jeff O'Neill were on the ice Wednesday. And O'Neill was on briefly to check out a new pair of skates.

MAPLE LEAFS: Pat Quinn is committed to lifestyle changes to ensure he can handle the workload of coach and general manager at Toronto.

Quinn, whose three-year contract extension worth $2 million kicks in next season, said he'll return as coach and GM of the Leafs.

Quinn missed two games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes because of an irregular heartbeat. Toronto lost to Carolina in six games.

Quinn said his health problem is under control.

-- From wire reports

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