The Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres face the same dilemma -- how to beat a Czech goalie.
Dominik Hasek and Roman Cechmanek will be in the opposing nets as the Sabres and Flyers begin the NHL playoffs Wednesday night, headlining three first-round series openers.
The Eastern Conference rivals will meet in the postseason for the fifth time in seven years. Philadelphia won three of those series, including a five-game, first-round triumph last year, and swept all four regular-season games this year.
Still, ''Nobody is taking them lightly,'' said Flyers forward John LeClair, who was limited to 16 games this season because of back trouble. ''Our record against them this season, each game was close. That's not a factor.''
The other openers Wednesday night are in the Western Conference.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
Buffalo at Philadelphia, 3 p.m.
Los Angeles at Detroit, 3 p.m.
Edmonton at Dallas, 4 p.m.
All Times ADT
The second-seeded Detroit Red Wings, winners of the Central Division, welcome the No. 7 seeded Los Angeles Kings. The Edmonton Oilers, the sixth seed, travel to Dallas to play the Pacific Division-champion Stars, last year's Stanley Cup runners-up.
In last season's Philadelphia-Buffalo series, LeClair scored a key goal that went through a hole in the side of the net. It might take more flukey plays like that to get pucks behind the veteran Hasek and the rookie Cechmanek.
Hasek led the Czech Republic to the 1998 Olympic gold medal as Cechmanek served as his never-used backup. Cechmanek has starred this season with Philadelphia, who shutout Buffalo twice and allowed only two goals in the four wins.
''He deals with pressure very well. I believe he can back it,'' Flyers coach Bill Barber. ''I don't think at any one time I've seen this player get rattled. If he was rattled, it wasn't because of his play but what was going on in front of him. I have no concerns whatsoever.''
The Kings endured quite a challenge just to secure a spot in the playoffs. Los Angeles rallied from a deficit behind the surprisingly strong goaltending of Felix Potvin to claim one of the last spots in the season's final days.
Potvin, who started the season with Vancouver and was sent to the minors for the first time in since 1992-93, went 12-4-2 with five shutouts after the Kings acquired him for future considerations on Feb. 15. Los Angeles will need stellar play like that to avoid another first-round washout.
The Red Wings, who with 111 points (49-20-9-4) had their best season since 1995-96, swept Los Angeles in the first round last year. Detroit was then knocked out by its nemesis, Colorado, in the second round.
Dallas enters the playoffs on quite a run. The two-time defending conference champions, who have won five straight division titles, are 10-0-3 since March 11.
''It's a nice way to get into the playoffs,'' center Joe Nieuwendyk said. ''It gives you an added sense of confidence. We need to keep this thing going.''
The Stars are trying to become the first team to reach three straight Stanley Cup finals since the Edmonton Oilers in the late 1980s.
The Oilers will be riding goalie Tommy Salo, who carried the club with an MVP-contending 36 victories and a 2.46 goals-against average.
These teams also met in last year's first round. The Stars prevailed in five games.
Philadelphia and Buffalo entered Sunday, the last day of the season, tied in points and with the knowledge that they would be first-round opponents. The only question was which team would be the fourth seed and claim home-ice advantage.
That was decided on the ice. The Flyers beat the Sabres on their home ice, 2-1. Cechmanek again outdueled Hasek, stopping 36 shots to run his season total to 102 Buffalo shots faced, two goals allowed.
''I will guarantee you, if we get 37 again we'll get more than one (goal),'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. ''I don't know if you're going to get three or four, but if you get 37, you should get two or three on him.''
The Flyers also aren't going to rely on past success to get them through this series. They are missing second-leading scorer Keith Primeau, who is expected to be out of the series because of a knee injury.
Veteran forward Rick Tocchet said the Flyers won't look past the Sabres since Philadelphia only managed 10 goals against Hasek in the four games.
''You've got to be crazy to think that way going into a series,'' Tocchet said when asked about overconfidence. ''These last four games we played in the regular season, you can throw them right out the window, it doesn't mean anything. The only thing it meant is it got us home ice but after that it doesn't mean anything.
''It's been four games, it's not like we've scored a lot of goals against Buffalo.''
Four of the remaining five playoff series get under way Thursday night.
The fifth-seeded San Jose Sharks go to St. Louis to play the fourth-seeded Blues, and the Colorado Avalanche, the NHL's top team with 118 points, play host to No. 8 Vancouver to round out the Western Conference matchups.
The Blues won the Presidents' Trophy last season as the NHL's top team, but were bounced in the first round by the upstart Sharks, who were seeded eighth.
Also Thursday, Pittsburgh, with Mario Lemieux and scoring champion Jaromir Jagr, plays at Washington. The Stanley Cup-champion Devils, who earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference, welcome the Carolina Hurricanes.
The remaining series, between the seventh-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs and No. 2 Ottawa Senators, begins Friday. The Maple Leafs, who beat the Senators in six games in the first round of last year's playoffs, will play the first two games at Ottawa, the Northeast Division champion.
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