Daniel Briere vs. Zdeno Chara


In the same way New Jersey's Brian Gionta has taken advantage of the new NHL to establish himself as one of the game's most accomplished scorers, the diminutive Daniel Briere is perhaps the most talented forward among a mostly anonymous group of Sabres.

As such, Briere will shoulder significant pressure against an Ottawa team that is loaded with higher-profile stars. Briere has already shown he thrives in the spotlight, scoring the winning goal in double overtime in Game 1 that helped establish the Sabres' confidence as they rolled over the Flyers in six games.

Briere, a co-captain with Chris Drury, took a team-record 14 shots in that game and is tied for the team lead in playoff scoring with nine points. A native of Gatineau, Quebec, Briere notched at least one point in five of six first-round games. Beyond the offensive production, Briere is symbolic of the Sabres' will to succeed this season. Although he missed 34 regular-season games recovering from a sports hernia operation, the irrepressible 28-year-old was dynamic upon his return, scoring 25 times in 48 games.

Speedy and blessed with wonderful hands, Briere's 58 points were good for fourth place in team scoring. When the Sabres are desperate for a goal, it is Briere that coach Lindy Ruff will send over the boards. Chances are it's a move for which he'll be rewarded.


The defining image of the Senators' first-round victory over Tampa Bay was that of hulking Senators defenseman Zdeno Chara standing over Bolts star Vincent Lecavalier, fist cocked, ready to pummel the Tampa forward into submission.

Chara held back in a show of true graciousness. But Chara is all about the potential for devastation. In the same way that Montreal great Larry Robinson used to intimidate by merely being on the ice, Chara has become such a force along the Ottawa blue line.

Teams construct game plans with a view to avoiding Chara as much as possible, although given that he logs between 25-28 minutes a night, that's a tall order (as it were). While many big defensemen have struggled to adapt to the new NHL, the 6-foot-9 Chara has the smarts to know, for the most part, where the physicality line is.

He still leads the Senators in playoff penalty minutes with 15, but that intelligence will be crucial against a corps of small, speedy Sabres forwards who played havoc with an immobile Flyers defense.

Chara, though, presents an imposing blend of snarl and smarts that will likely earn him a second straight Norris Trophy nomination and will make him a leading figure in a second-round series that promises to be decided by the slimmest of margins.