Originally created 04/28/00

Stars expect fiesty series with Sharks



DALLAS -- Both teams think defense first, offense second. Their coaches have been going against each other since their WHL days. The fans in each city will go hoarse jeering specific rivals.

For a second-round NHL playoff series, the Dallas-San Jose matchup should provide some intense action starting with Game 1 Friday night.

"We know how to play them and they know how to play us, so it's going to be a fine line," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "This is not a series for chess or checkers. It's pull out and let's go play."

The Sharks are fresh from eliminating St. Louis, the top seed in the Western Conference. They also beat the Stars in four of six regular-season meetings.

"We believe we can beat them," said San Jose wing Owen Nolan. "We've got to play a similar style, sacrifice. It'll be a tough series -- and probably a long one, too."

Although San Jose can play grind-it-out hockey, the Sharks scored nearly three goals per game against St. Louis and averaged 3.4 against Dallas this season. The Stars gave up 2.1 goals per game against the rest of the league. Dallas' penalty minutes also were up against San Jose.

The Stanley Cup champion Stars got here by beating Edmonton in five games. They've been off since last Friday and were disappointed the next series didn't begin earlier with the Sharks fatigued from going seven games with the Blues.

The rest has been good for Dallas. For the first time all season, all its best players could actually be healthy at the same time.

Defenseman Sergei Zubov will play for the first time since injuring his knee in late March. Forward Jere Lehtinen, who played just 17 regular-season games, is expected back in this series, possibly for the opener.

There are deep feelings on both sides.

Dallas fans have gone hoarse screaming at San Jose's Bryan Marchment ever since he drove Joe Nieuwendyk into the boards and tore up Nieuwendyk's knee in a 1998 first-round series.

Earlier that season, Marchment was with Edmonton when he was suspended for three games because of a hit on Stars center Mike Modano.

When the series moves west, San Jose fans will let Stars goalie Ed Belfour hear what they think of his decision to sign with Dallas in 1998 instead of remaining with the Sharks.

San Jose had acquired Belfour from Chicago during the season but rather than stick with their rebuilding, he jumped to the Stars and helped them become champions.

Now Steve Shields protects the goal for the Sharks. He rebounded from a horrible Game 6 to stop the Blues in the deciding game.

Hitchcock said that victory could be quite a springboard for San Jose.

"That's a stride that can affect your organization for years, not just months," he said. "It gives you the confidence to move ahead and get rid of the shackles that you keep carrying with you, the baggage that goes with losing. Once you remove those shackles, the sky's the limit.

"We know how to get there; we've been there. Now, do we have the game to play against San Jose? That's our challenge."