DETROIT -- A rivalry once considered the nastiest in hockey resumes Saturday when the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche meet in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Detroit and Colorado, the West's top two teams in the regular season, will meet for the fifth time in the playoffs since 1996.
The Avalanche have won three of those series, including the last two, in 1999 and 2000. The Wings beat Colorado in three of the four games the teams played this season.
"Detroit will be a great challenge for us, and we are excited to play that series," goalie Patrick Roy said after shutting out San Jose 1-0 in Game 7 on Wednesday night, sending Colorado to the conference finals for the sixth time in seven years.
Detroit, the regular-season leader, advanced to the conference finals by dispatching St. Louis in five games.
"We just know that it's probably the way it should be," Detroit's Brendan Shanahan said. "We were the top two teams in the Western Conference during the season, so it's only fitting that we're the last two standing."
Detroit and Colorado have combined to win four of the last six Stanley Cups - the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 and the Avs in 1996 and last year.
Add to that a rivalry that has resulted in blood, brawls and broken bones, and the elements of a fiercely contested series are present.
"Detroit has been in the back of our minds all the time, and you watch them and see how well they are playing," Colorado defenseman Rob Blake said.
The Wings-Avs rivalry traces its roots to May 29, 1996.
In Game 6 of the conference finals, Claude Lemieux's blind-side check on Kris Draper sent the Red Wings forward into the boards face-first. Draper sustained a fractured jaw, a broken nose and severe facial lacerations and had to undergo surgery.
Colorado won the game, which eliminated Detroit and sent the Avs to their first Stanley Cup title.
The Red Wings exacted a bloody revenge in March 1997, when Lemieux, playing his first game in Detroit since the hit on Draper, was hammered by Darren McCarty in a first-period brawl.
"Obviously it's changed over the years, because players have come and gone," Draper said Thursday. "I don't think the rivalry is what it was at maybe four years ago, because there was the hatred there.
"Now I think the bottom line is it's two good hockey clubs going at one another and both teams want to advance on and go to the Stanley Cup finals."
Roy and the Wings are well acquainted. After all, Detroit is indirectly responsible for bringing the star goalie to Colorado.
Then with Montreal, Roy lashed out at the team's management after an 11-1 loss to the Red Wings in 1995. Roy was upset coach Mario Tremblay left him in a game in which he was being shelled. He was traded to the Avalanche less than a week later.
Roy has recorded many fine performances between the pipes in Detroit-Colorado games, but the NHL's leader in playoff goalie victories also has had his share of infamous moments.
He lost a pair of fights to Red Wings goalies - to Mike Vernon in 1997 and Chris Osgood in 1998 - and has incurred the wrath of Hockeytown residents, many of whom still harbor a healthy dislike for him.
Roy and Dominik Hasek - two of the most acclaimed goalies in NHL history - likely will be the focus of the upcoming series.
Roy bolstered his already well-documented reputation as a big-game goalie by winning a pair of Game 7's this postseason.
Hasek, a six-time Vezina Trophy winner, was brought to Detroit this year with one goal in mind - winning the Cup.
"Everybody's excited, and everybody's talking about Colorado because it's a big rivalry," Hasek said. "I am sure they talk about Patrick and me. For me, there is something to prove because in the playoffs Colorado is much better, and I cannot compare my record with his record.
"What happened in the past doesn't really matter."
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