Cory Conacher has lived two NHL lives this season.
He played 35 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring 24 points and counted among the Calder Trophy candidates for most of 2013.
But at the trade deadline, he was dealt to the Ottawa Senators in a multi-player deal that had goalie Ben Bishop going back to Tampa. He scored two goals in 12 games, and was no longer in the rookie of the year race.
Yet while the Lightning failed to make the playoff cut, the Senators are a second-round playoff team – and Conacher has been an unsung hero for them.
He has three goals, tied for the team lead for the Senators, while averaging only 11:53 time on ice per game. He scored the game-tying goal with 23 seconds left in Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens, before Ottawa won in OT. He helped deliver the knockout blow to the Habs in Game 5 with two goals, including a key one midway through the first period.
That’s also a game where Conacher mixed it up in a third-period scrum, earning 12 of his team-leading 29 penalty minutes for the Sens in the playoffs.
He had six more PIMs in Game 1 of the semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, attempting to play the role of an agitator against some of the Pens’ stars.
"It's all part of the game. It's playoffs. That's kind of the way I play. I like to be in those dirty areas," Conacher said Wednesday, the day after the Senators were downed 4-1 in the opening game of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against Pittsburgh.
"I like to kind of [tick] off some of their players and get in their heads, and the fans obviously take note of that sometimes. It's all fun for me and hopefully I can continue to do that."
The Sens expect Conacher will battle throughout the series, as he has throughout his life.
He was born with Type 1 diabetes, which he regulates with a pump near his hip. It has a sensor that allows him to test his levels between periods.
Of course, the greatest aspect about Conacher is also the smallest: His height. Listed at 5-foot-8, he’s one of the most diminutive players remaining in the playoffs.
As Coach Paul MacLean told NHL.com: "His heart is bigger than his size a lot of times.”