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Kostya Kennedy's Breakdown
Colorado    Phoenix 
Peter Forsberg's probable absence hurts but center Joe Sakic has been playing out of his head for a month and Milan Hejduk will bring the crowd to its feet with his puckhandling. Sandis Ozolinsh and Ray Bourque give Colorado two of the premier offensive defensemen in the league.  OFFENSE

The Edge:

The key is big left winger Keith Tkachuk. A truly dominant power forward at times, he's had a very uneven season while battling injuries (he missed 32 games) and trade rumors. 

The addition of Bourque brings presence to a unit that also includes Adam Foote. Otherwise the back line is only average, particularly as Ozolinsh always thinks offense first.  DEFENSE

The Edge:

The top four -- Teppo Numminen, Jyrki Lumme, Keith Carney and Lyle Odelein -- is the strength of the club. 

Patrick Roy remains the premier big-game goalie of his time. Expect high-level play from him, as this could be his last season as a starter in Colorado, which hopes to soon usher in Marc Denis.  IN GOAL

The Edge:

This is where the Coyotes will pay for allowing Nikolai Khabibulin to miss the whole season in a contract dispute. Having Sean Burke in his stead is a major step down. 

They've got the glitter and the grit, and Bourque has raised an already high-level power play even higher.   PP

The Edge:

The Coyotes finished with the weakest power play (12.1%) in the West. Things won't get any better now. 

An oddly ineffective unit. The Avalanche have the talent to kill penalties superbly but not enough players willing to do the work.  PK

The Edge:

The superb penalty killing of star Jeremy Roenick sets the tone for an above-average unit. 

The players have grown to respect Bob Hartley increasingly since he stepped in before last season. He's likely to bust up some lines or make some other big move if the team gets into a funk.  COACH

The Edge:

No-nonsense Bobby Francis has had to deal with lot of nonsense (mainly from Tkachuk) in the Coyotes' dressing room and he's handled it well. 

Just having Ray Bourque in the room adds greater urgency to the mission. Bourque has never won a Cup in 21 seasons and he'll be giving everything to get one.   INTANGIBLES

The Edge:

This is a streaky club that hasn't won a playoff round since moving to Phoenix. The Coyotes are determined to finally get on a good streak when it counts. 

Hejduk and fellow second-year man Chris Drury. If they can replicate last year's playoff effort, the Avalanche could move quickly though this round.  X-FACTOR

The Edge:

Tkachuk, Tkachuk, Tkachuk: If he's the best player in a game or two, he could carry the Coyotes. 
Kennedy's Prediction: Colorado in 6

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