'You just go out and play'
Stars' Hitchcock says team ready for deciding Game 7
Posted: Thursday June 03, 1999 04:20 PM
DALLAS (AP) -- Ken Hitchcock has a curious way of handling the gut-wrenching tension surrounding Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.
He ignores it.
"I think there's almost a peaceful feeling that comes when you reach this stage," the Dallas Stars coach said Wednesday. "You almost become relaxed because you know a lot of things that are in your control were put in place six months previous.
"You trust your players, you trust your own instincts, then you just go out and play."
The top-seeded Stars play the second-seeded Colorado Avalanche on Friday night in Dallas to determine which team will face Buffalo in the Stanley Cup finals. The Sabres wrapped up the Eastern Conference title Monday night.
The Avalanche had a chance to eliminate the Stars on Tuesday night in Denver. They led 1-0 late in the first period but Dallas tied it in the second and scored three times in the third for a 4-1 victory.
The two days off to prepare for Game 7 allows for a lot of time to think about a game that will determine whether they'll be playing hockey or golf next week.
"It's nerve-wracking," said Dallas' Guy Carbonneau, a veteran of many Game 7s. "But that's what you play for."
Colorado forward Theo Fleury has played in five Game 7s, so he has a good understanding of what it's like, even if his record in those games is 1-4.
"Everybody's a bundle of nerves," Fleury said. "Nobody wants to make a mistake out there."
Going into the series finale, neither team can claim much of an edge.
Dallas is 6-2 at home in the postseason, but both losses were to Colorado. The Avalanche are 8-1 on the road in the playoffs, but the only loss was in Dallas.
"I think we're going to see a great Game 7," Avalanche coach Bob Hartley said. "The sad part of this is one team will be on vacation at the conclusion of Game 7."
Hitchcock, who lost his only Game 7 as Dallas' coach, said experience has taught him that one team will dominate and clearly prove it is better.
"It's not left up to the seesaw battles that some of the others are," he said. "It's the team that plays the best in every aspect that usually wins -- the best 5-on-5, has the better special teams and the best goaltender."
The Stars will definitely be fresher for Game 7 than they were in their last Reunion Arena appearance, a 7-5 loss Sunday in Game 5. Hitchcock blamed his team's sloppy play partly on a 38-hour turnaround between games.
This time they'll have 69 hours.
"Any time you get extra time off at this time of year," he said, "it can't do anything but help."
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