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Original Issue

Stealing the Spotlight

Overlooked by the opposition, lesser-known players are once again proving to be surprise weapons in the postseason

DETROIT RED WINGSforward Kirk Maltby's primary responsibility is to wear down the opposing team."I know I'm not looked upon to score on a nightly basis," says Maltby,a fourth-liner who typically plays alongside Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen."We keep it pretty simple." But after a regular season in which the6-foot, 197-pound Maltby scored just five goals, his lowest total in sevenseasons, and had just six assists, he quickly emerged as an unlikely playoffscoring star--potting both the game-tying and game-winning goals against theEdmonton Oilers in Game 1. The 12-year veteran knocked in a goal with his stickshaft late in the third period and scored when his shot was deflected offOilers center Rem Murray and between the pads of goalie Dwayne Roloson in thesecond overtime. "In the playoffs teams get focused on matchups," saysDetroit left wing Brendan Shanahan. "We have meetings talking about theirbest players, and they have meetings focusing on ours. Guys like [Henrik]Zetterberg and [Pavel] Datsyuk, they're never [in a situation] in which theother team doesn't know where they are at every moment. It gives an opportunityfor other players to fly under the radar."

The little-knownhero has become a playoff staple over the years, and on Sunday the Oilersevened the series with just such a weapon. Coach Craig MacTavish, wanting totake advantage of rookie Brad Winchester's anonymity, put him on the top line,alongside left wing Ryan Smyth and center Shawn Horcoff. Winchester, who hadone assist in 19 regular-season games, converted a cross-ice pass to score thewinning goal in the second period.

Meanwhile, inDallas, the Colorado Avalanche were discovering a go-to guy in rookie WojtekWolski. Called up from the Ontario Hockey League three days before theplayoffs, the 20-year-old had a goal and two assists in Colorado's 5-2 upset ofthe Stars last Saturday. "When the playoffs are over, you're going to find[that] the teams that went to the Stanley Cup finals had scoring at key timesfrom all four lines," says Detroit G.M. Ken Holland. "You can't go andplay for two months and win with [the top] six guys scoring over andover."



UNSUNG HERO Detroit won Game 1 on two goals by Maltby (center).