Pronger looks ready to step it up

Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said he didn't see this goading image in the Chicago Tribune. "Next question," he said.
Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said he didn't see this goading image in the Chicago Tribune. "Next question," he said.
Posted: June 09, 2010

Chris Pronger claimed he didn't see the poster of him in the Chicago Tribune, the one in which he's wearing a figure-skater's skirt and that characterizes him as Chrissy and describes him as "looks like Tarzan, skates like Jane."

"I don't read what you guys write. Good or bad," he said.

Since Pronger apparently doesn't look at pictures, either, someone from the media was thoughtful enough to describe it, wondering if it might fuel him with more motivation for the Flyers' win-or-go-home Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday against the Blackhawks at the Wachovia Center.

Pronger was not interested.

"Next question," he said.

The man with the microphone pressed on.

"Does it motivate you more?"

"I really couldn't care, to be honest with you," Pronger said.

From the Flyers' perspective, that little exchange might have as much impact on Game 6 as anything else they did to prepare to fight off elimination and stretch the series to Game 7, which would be played Friday in Chicago.

It's not that the 35-year-old Pronger needs something so artificial to get his juices boiling, but the issue did seem to darken his mood. Few NHL players are as adroit as the 6-foot-6 defenseman at parrying questions from the media. Frequently, he does so with a touch of humor.

But after the "Chrissy" issue, Pronger's mood seemed to darken. The rest of the news conference, he was all business. No more yukkin' it up. Good for the Flyers. Not good for the Blackhawks.

Of course, the outcome of Game 6 is as uncertain as the first five in a fascinating series in which the home team has won each time. But a strong case can be made that Pronger isn't going to accommodate the Blackhawks the way he did in the Flyers' 7-4 Game 5 defeat Sunday at the United Center.

Pronger was on the ice for six Chicago goals, and a hooking penalty against him in the second period resulted in a Blackhawks power-play goal. Physically, he took more than he gave.

But it was only the second game during the postseason in which it can be said that Pronger was more of a detriment than an asset. The other was the 5-1 loss to Montreal in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. He rebounded to dominate the fourth and fifth games and, quite simply, was the top player on the ice the first four games of the Finals.

So Pronger's history suggests the Blackhawks will feel his wrath in Game 6. Center Danny Briere can sense it coming, as do the rest of Pronger's teammates.

"We have [fed off him] all year long, especially in the playoffs," said Briere, who had a half-moon-shaped cut under his right eye from a high-stick by Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith that went unpenalized. "He's very confident, and he brings a calmness to his game, to the rest of the team. We know he's going to step up the next game."

Pronger is the lone Flyers player who has both won and lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. He was with Edmonton in '06 when the Oilers fended off elimination to Carolina in Game 6 before losing Game 7 on the Hurricanes' home ice. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette coached Carolina. The following season, Pronger helped Anaheim win the Stanley Cup.

"He's been here before. He's a veteran," Simon Gagne said of Pronger. "For guys like myself, being there for the first time in the Stanley Cup Finals, you learn a lot from a guy like that. He's going to be physical. We all know that."


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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