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Canadian Press
Dec 14, 2006, 5:07 PM EST

(CP) - It's a collection of bizarre matchups sure to leave NHL fans scratching their heads.

Sheldon Souray squaring off against teammate Craig Rivet. Rookie Dustin Penner going toe-to-toe with the retired Marc Bergevin. Martin Brodeur taking on both Tie Domi and Donald Brashear. Fortunately (especially for Brodeur), the clashes take place not on the ice, but at the poker table, where 16 current and former NHLers battle for Texas Hold 'Em supremacy in the Charity Faceoff. The seven-part series premieres Saturday (TV, 1 p.m. ET) and continues throughout the holidays, culminating with the one-hour finale Dec. 30.

The tournament, which was played in August prior to training camp, will give hockey fans a rare glimpse at some of their favourite players away from the arena.

"For fans, they'll be interested in seeing some of the great chatter between the rivals," said Adam Ashton, TSN's vice-president of marketing. "It's interesting to see how some of these guys bluff their way around the table. I was also fascinated to see, or not see, how some of their on-ice tendencies translated to the felt."

One of the more heated rivalries simmered on Table 3, where Montreal Canadiens teammates Souray and Rivet were teamed with Original Six nemesis Bryan McCabe of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Simon Gagne of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Souray, who admitted he didn't last long, had high praise for McCabe.

"Caber? Oh, Caber, he's a beauty," Souray joked. "With him, you just don't know. He's probably such a good bluffer, anyway, just in life.

"He made good bets when he had to, he probably bluffed us out a few times, and when it came time to show his cards, he had (good) cards."

Souray was stunned to learn that Rivet was out for blood - even if it ran Canadiens red.

"They told me Craig was out to get me, and I was surprised that he was getting so personal with me," said Souray. "It was a lot of fun. But I think he was looking forward to taking me down."

Ashton said Brashear, an outspoken tough-guy with the Washington Capitals, provided the most surprising moments - and not for what he said. Brashear was strangely quiet, despite being seated with noted L.A. Kings chatterbox Sean Avery.

"His silence spoke volumes," said Ashton. "Guys knew of Donald's reputation on the ice."

Souray said the rapid growth in poker interest, combined with the NHL's desire to market its players more extensively, created the perfect opportunity for the league to jump into the Hold 'Em world.

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