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Original Issue

Health Is an Issue

The fate of some Stanley Cup hopefuls, McGuire says, will hinge on whether top players can overcome injuries

The Detroit RedWings need to get out of the first round quickly because of their age. Theirstarting skaters are the oldest (average age: 33) in the playoffs. Look for theline of Steve Yzerman, Robert Lang and Jason Williams to be very effective.Detroit's transition game is better than anyone else's in the league.... IfMike Modano is not 100%, due to a left-knee injury, second-line center JasonArnott needs to have a tremendous playoffs for the Dallas Stars. Atrade-deadline acquisition, 28-year-old defenseman Willie Mitchell, will beexpected to be play big minutes and be a stopper.... The offensively challengedCalgary Flames need role players Stéphane Yelle, Shean Donovan and MarcusNilson to forecheck and be outstanding on the penalty kill.... Theblood-clotting condition that ended all-world goalie Tomas Vokoun's season iscrushing to the Nashville Predators. Backup goalie Chris Mason, 30, isrespected by his teammates and his coaching staff for his work ethic andathleticism, but he has no NHL playoff experience. The most important skatersfor the Predators are Marek Zidlicky (49 points through Sunday) and KimmoTimonen (above), the slick, puckhandling defensemen who provide most ofNashville's offense.... The Anaheim Mighty Ducks' up-tempo attack will helpspeedy forwards Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald provide consistent offense. Andunderrated players such as forwards Todd Marchant and Rob Niedermayer anddefenseman Ruslan Salei can be difference makers for the Ducks.... The San JoseSharks, who had won eight straight games through Sunday, are peaking at theright time. Goaltender Vesa Toskala could be this season's playoff version ofthe Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff. Center Joe Thornton and right wing JonathanCheechoo (left) are a great one-two tandem for creating offense, but the Sharksneed increased power-play production in order to build off their regular-seasonsuccess.... The Colorado Avalanche can score goals, but they also give up a lotof them. The big question is whether recently acquired goalie José Théodore(formerly with the Canadiens) will be in top condition after missing 25 gameswith a fractured right heel. It's not easy playing in Denver's high altitudewhen you're not in good shape.... Every team knows that to beat the EdmontonOilers, you have to stop left wing Ryan Smyth, which is why fellow forwardsAles Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff need to play well offensively. There's also bigpressure on goalkeeper Dwayne Roloson (right): He is the only dependable NHLgoalie the Oilers have, and he's set to become an unrestricted free agent thissummer.