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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Updated: May 18, 1:40 PM ET
Chris Drury vs. Mike Commodore

By Scott Burnside
ESPN.com

HERO -- CHRIS DRURY
Let's check veteran Chris Drury's line for the playoffs so far: 13 points, sixth among all playoff scorers, three power-play goals, one short-handed goal, one game-winner, 19:29 in average ice time a night. Gee, sounds like a guy who does it all.

If ever there was a player who truly embodies the personality of his team it is the Sabres' co-captain, Drury. Quiet, understated, efficient, Drury is all of those things. As are the Sabres, as they prepare for their first conference finals since 1999.

Prior to the start of this playoff season, Drury had played 80 playoff games, all of those in Colorado, where he learned from one of the finest leaders in the game, Avalanche captain Joe Sakic.

In fact, there is a definite sameness in the way both Drury and Sakic go about their business, on and off the ice.

A native of Trumbull, Conn., Drury won a Cup with Sakic and Co. in Colorado and is also a two-time Olympian.

And yet, this spring marks a demarcation point for him, a giant, if quiet, step forward in terms of maturity, in terms of becoming a leader.

When the Sabres have stumbled or when they've faced adversity (as they did late in their second-round series against Ottawa), it's been Drury who's made the big play, set up the big goal or helped kill off the big penalty.

There is as big a twinkle in his eye when he goes over the boards to kill penalties as when he goes on the power play "because he knows how much it means," coach Lindy Ruff said. "He's as well-rounded a player as you can have on a team."

VILLAIN -- MIKE COMMODORE
If Medusa played hockey, she would be Mike Commodore. If the Carolina defenseman was a character from Greek mythology, he would be Medusa. It's not so much that Commodore's unruly, ever-growing red hair stops opponents cold in their tracks. (Actually, unruly would be a compliment. But we digress.) But as the Hurricanes embark on their conference finals against a speedy, talented Sabres team, Commodore and the rest of the under-appreciated Carolina defense will face their sternest test yet.

So far, Commodore and his now-famous locks have been doing an admirable job of keeping opponents in their place. Although he struggled early vs. Montreal, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound bruiser has rebounded with solid play as the Canes have won eight of their last nine games. He ranks fifth among all players with 31 postseason hits and he's added a pair of assists and blocked 25 shots. Playing alongside Bret Hedican, Commodore plays the "bad cop" in the pairing.

"They're a really good combination," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Mike is a big, strong, physical defenseman. His puck-moving ability and his offense gets a little bit underrated at times."

Commodore also has brought an element of the whimsical, carrying on a tradition of not cutting his hair during the hockey season. Then, there's the white bathrobe and shower sandals that he picked as a Christmas present that have become something of a fashion statement in the Raleigh-Durham area. Fans are showing up at bars and the RBC in similar gear. Cardboard cutouts of the big defenseman also can be found around town.

"The hair is God-given," Laviolette said. "The other stuff came out of the catalog."