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The Center of Attention: Centers Need to be Playmakers

In the Eastern Conference playoffs, Buffalo’s Daniel Briere and Carolina’s Eric Staal have been turning it on big time. In 10 games, Briere has four goals and nine assists and Stall has accumulated the exact same stats in nine games. For Briere five if his points have come on the power play, while Staal has notched eight points with his team up a man.

Carolina took care of business 4 games to 1 against New Jersey, with their loss coming at the only time when Staal was shut down. Staal got the assist on the winner in game three, the game-tying goal in game two, and one goal and two assists in the 6-0 first game rout of New Jersey.

In the sixth and final game of the first round series against Montreal, in which five of the six contests were decided by one goal, the omnipresent Staal earned the assist on the winning goal. In the second game of the hard-fought battle against the Canadiens with the Hurricanes down three to zip after one period, Staal engineered the next four Carolina goals, getting an assist on each one. Carolina went on to win that game and eventually the series. The third game saw Staal score the game-winner in OT at the 3:38 mark. If Carolina continues to win, expect to see Staal in the middle of it.

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The Sabres’ Briere has been another guy in the center of all the action. In game one against first round opponent Philadelphia, the tenacious Briere got the assist on the team’s second goal and scored the game-winner at 7:31 of the second overtime period. After four games, the teams were tied. In game four, which the Sabres won 3-0, the center had two assists.

In game-one against powerhouse Ottawa, Briere assisted on the game-tying goal at 19:49 of the third period. The Sabres won that game in OT and went on to eliminate the Senators in five, winning four straight, each by one goal. In the five-game effort against the Senators, Briere totaled four points. For the Sabres in the playoffs, the determined Briere is second in points and first among centers.

When these two teams meet in the third round, look for Staal and Briere to be in the center of everything, making things happen with a quick wrist shot, a smooth pass or an advantageous power play goal.

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