Western Conference Semi-Finals Preview: San Jose Sharks vs. Dallas Stars

Expect much hugging but no loving in this series. The teams hate each other, the fans hate each each other, and in all likelihood the popcorn vendors hate each other. This is a feud masquerading as a playoff series.

While much has been made of how the teams split their regular season matchups, it should be noted both made noticeable personnel moves after the majority of those games had been played. The Sharks added Brian Campbell, who seemed to be getting the hang of this Western Conference playoff thing as the Calgary series was drawing to a close, while the Stars added Brad Richards, who didn't add much during the regular season but had five points in the six games against Anaheim. It would help tremendously if Campbell would similarly step it up in this round.

The major offensive threats from the Stars are Mike Ribiero, the apparently immune to aging Mike Modano, and Brendan Morrow. Sergei Zubov, Dallas' best defenseman who also excels at making things happen offensively, may be back in the lineup for this series after having been out since mid-January with assorted physical issues. In net is the mercurial Marty Turco, an excellent puck stopper and handler when he isn't having a meltdown. Which lately he hasn't been having.

The Sharks will need to avoid the yo-yo they rode against Calgary, where one game they'd be world-beaters and followed by an outing featuring sixty minutes of scared scattering bunnies. The aforementioned Campbell and Milan Michalek need to get into the swing of things and start contributing in the manner which they are capable. Basically, the Sharks' stars need to outshine the Stars'... um, stars. This is an extremely even matchup. I'm already steeling myself for Gam Seven.