Chris Drury vs. Denis Gauthier
There was a reason coach Lindy Ruff named Drury one of the team's captains at the beginning of the season. In the absence of veterans J.P. Dumont and Daniel Briere, both of whom were lost for long periods early in the season, it was Drury who evolved into a key leader. He has helped a Sabres team that has succeeded based on collective effort as opposed to the contributions of a few stars.
Killing penalties, playing on the power play, taking key draws. Those are all part of Drury's assignments. A case in point was Tuesday, when the Sabres shut out the Hurricanes in a game that kept Carolina from securing the top seed in the East.
Drury scored, reaching the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. He finished the season with four goals in his final three games and will be a key element if the Sabres are to advance beyond the first round. Just don't expect the two-time Olympian to make much noise while doing it.
Flyers GM Bob Clarke thought so highly of the 29-year-old Montreal native that he signed Gauthier to a three-year contract extension shortly after acquiring him before the trade deadline from Phoenix for minor leaguer Josh Gratton and two second-round picks in the coming draft.
Gauthier became an instant hit, if you'll pardon the expression, and leads the Flyers in hits. He also was suspended for two games for boarding the Leafs' Kyle Wellwood near the end of the season, endearing him to fans in Philly.
Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 224 pounds, Gauthier was drafted by the Flames 20th overall in 1995. He might not have lived up to original expectations, but a pro scout told ESPN.com that Gauthier has matured and no longer feels he has to face down every opponent after every whistle. "He can just play now," the scout said.
Invariably, that means everyone around him has to keep his head up, especially the Sabres.
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The Hero vs. The Villain
There will be one player who will be the team's hero and there will be another who will crush the other team's dreams. Here's a look at the Heroes and Villains of the first round.
• Lightning vs. Senators
• Canadiens vs. Hurricanes
• Rangers vs. Devils
• Flyers vs. Sabres