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Now opponents, Paille and Girardi have deep bonds

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- After he scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 of the Boston Bruins' Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, it's fair to say that Daniel Paille's friends and family were thrilled for the forward's big moment on the biggest of stages. But one of Paille's closest friends wasn't so thrilled about the game's final score.

That would be Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, whose team now faces a steep 3-0 series deficit heading into Thursday's Game 4 at Madison Square Garden. The pair grew up in Welland, Ontario and started playing hockey together as eight-year-olds. They were also junior hockey teammates with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League and even served as the best man at each other's weddings, along with friend and former Ranger Andre Deveaux.

With all that history, Paille doesn't see his recent success at Girardi's expense putting a strain on their relationship.

"I'll see after the series," Paille told "I'm sure when this series is done we'll have a good talk and see how things were during the series. For now we both know it's all about business."

The two friends may have shut down communication during this series, but the mutual respect between them has only grown as they've seen one another evolve into NHL players. Paille, who was selected in the first round of the 2002 NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, still marvels at the work ethic of Girardi, who went undrafted before establishing himself in the League and being selected to play in last year's All-Star Game.

Regardless of what happens in the remainder of this series, or even the remainder of their NHL careers, that appreciation isn't going to change.

"We know a lot about each other. We know what each other went through to get to today," Paille said. "Dan is a proven factor of an undrafted player who just defied all odds. He just never quit. The fact that we know a lot of personal details about each other, I can relate to his type of situation."


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