The Stanley Cup playoffs are the most grueling marathon in sports. To win the coveted Cup, players must go all-out through two months of punishing play. Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour is an 18-year NHL veteran bidding for his second Stanley Cup. He's a strong two-way center exceptional on face-offs and the penalty-kill. Most importantly, he plays through pain and, at 38, is one of the league's grand old warriors. Here are 11 more players, past and present, who personify the word ''rugged.''
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The Flyers' tenacious, hard-working leader for 15 seasons (1969-84), Clarke won three Hart trophies as NHL MVP despite suffering from diabetes. A skilled playmaking center and team captain, he was called the heart and soul of the Broad Street Bullies (Stanley Cup champs in 1974 and '75), and personified coach Fred Shero's edict to "Take the shortest route to the puck-carrier and arrive in ill humor."
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A veteran of 18 seasons and four Cups, Detroit's checking center and member of its famed "Grind Line" is only 5-9 and 190 pounds, but still plays with relentless abandon. A skilled penalty-killer and face-off man, Draper, 37, was sidelined by an upper body injury through most of this year's first two rounds but badgered the Red Wings into letting him play in their Game 7 win over the Ducks, in which he was plus-one.
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Nicknamed Jethro (he resembled the Beverly Hillbillies character), Gillies brought size, toughness and scoring to the Islanders' famed Trio Grande line of fellow Hall of Famers Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier. An imposing power forward who scored 30-or-more goals six times, Jethro's beat-downs of Boston roughneck Terry O'Reilly in the 1980 playoffs were a key to the Isles winning the first of four straight Cups.
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The Blackhawks' bowling ball winger throws his weight (250 pounds) around with feisty physicality, and ranks second in the playoffs this season with 55 hits after two rounds. In Game 2 of the west semifinal vs. Vancouver, Byfuglien (pronounced Buff-lin) bowled over goalie Roberto Luongo, changing the course of the contest and the series, which Chicago won in six. "The team just needed someone to be a physical force all the time," he told the Vancouver Sun. "I figured I might as well try it and see what happens."
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The term "hard-hitting sniper" is often an oxymoron, but NHL's most electrifying goal-scorer (he netted 56 this season, leading the league for the second year in a row) isn't shy about dishing hits (he ranked ninth during the regular season, and third in the playoffs after two rounds). He also has a taste for glass, often leaping into it after scoring a goal.
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The Penguins are known for offensive firepower, but Orpik is their brawn. The 6-2, 219-pound black-and-blueliner leads the playoffs with 60 hits after two rounds -- and ranked second with 309 during the regular season. "I don't think anyone likes to get hit," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "But there are some guys, you can get them off their game. Maybe they don't come through the neutral zone with the same speed. Or maybe they take their eye off the puck and turn it over looking for you instead of worrying about making a play."
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A defensive pillar of the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup team and this year's squad that extended defending champ Detroit to seven games in the west semis, Pronger makes every trip into Anaheim's zone an exercise in pain for foes and fearlessly blocks shots (playoff-best 34 after two rounds). He also led the scrappy Oilers to the 2006 Cup final. In 1999-2000 with St. Louis, he became the first defenseman since Bobby Orr to win the Hart and Norris trophies in the same season.
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The Islanders' Hall of Fame defenseman was nicknamed "Bear" for his size, strength and ferocious hits (hip checks a specialty). He was captain and cornerstone of the Isles' four consecutive Stanley Cup teams (1980-83), winning three Norris trophies. He was also the first blueliner to score 1,000 career points, but bruising physical play was what he relished most.
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Perhaps the ultimate impact player, the 6-2, 215-pound defenseman delivered breathtaking hits (see: the concussion he gave the Flyers' Eric Lindros in the 2000 Eastern finals). A member of the Devils' three Stanley Cup champions, Stevens ranks among the NHL's top 10 all-time leaders in both regular- and postseason games and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007.
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Often cited as the NHL's hardest-hitting defenseman, his bruising style and hip-checks have made opponents see stars. Every foe is fair game. "Phaneuf doesn't know any nameplates, he just knows sweater colors and opponents," Calgary Flames coach Mike Keenan has said. "That's a great thing about his game, he's competitive. Whether it's Sidney Crosby or any other opponent it doesn't matter to him."
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At 6'4'' and 240 pounds, Komisarek adds snarling menace to Montreal's backline and is happy to get as good as he gives. He ranked fourth in the NHL in blocked shots (207) this season. To many observers, he's a throwback. ''[In 1982, when] Scott Stevens came along, there were other players in the league like him who played hard and gritty and nasty,'' L.A. Kings coach Terry Murray told Sports Illustrated. ''Now, you see, who? Phaneuf and Komisarek.''
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