Pronger returns for Ducks in Game 5
Don't expect Chris Pronger to change his ways coming off his second suspension in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
After all, the Anaheim Ducks' star defenceman has been hitting hard since he picked up a hockey stick at age 5.
"I'm not going to be worried about anything, bud," Pronger told reporters Tuesday after the Ducks returned home with a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Anaheim could give California its first Stanley Cup championship with a victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 on Wednesday night (CBC, 8 p.m. ET).
The Ducks are 2-0 in games following Pronger's playoff suspensions.
"We've got a group here that's been pretty good all year long at keeping distractions out of the way of what's at stake and what our task is," he said. "This game is no different.
"Obviously, the implications are a lot higher."
Pronger was suspended by the NHL on Sunday for elbowing Senators forward Dean McAmmond in the head early in the third period of Anaheim's Game 3 loss.
It was the second ban in these playoffs for the aggressive and physical Pronger and his seventh overall in 14 NHL seasons.
"We feel good about having him back, but again, he's one member of our hockey club," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "All we want is Chris Pronger to be Chris Pronger."
So expect more of Pronger's uninhibited play Wednesday.
"You don't have time to think out there, you've got to react," he said. "You've got to do what you do best and play the game the way you know how."
Pronger is in the finals for the second consecutive year after helping Edmonton reach the championship series during his only season with the Oilers.
His demand for a trade shortly after they lost to Carolina in the finals brought him to Anaheim.
"That's something you have to guard against — letting your emotions get to you, letting there be distractions," Pronger said. "Scotty [Niedermayer] has got some great advice for you: Worry about the game and don't worry about anything else."
That means Pronger will go through his normal game-day routine Wednesday before hitting the ice.
That'll be a change from Monday night, when he spent most of Game 4 with his back to the television in the visitor's dressing room in Ottawa.
"Certainly, it makes it a lot more interesting when you've got to watch a game like that," he said.
If Pronger saw Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson fake a shot on net, reload and fire the puck from centre ice at Ducks captain Niedermayer late in the second period Monday, he wasn't biting.
Asked if Alfredsson should have been punished by the NHL, Pronger replied, "I don't work for the league, bud."
Carlyle nimbly skated over the issue, too.
"The league sets out the rules," he said. "Whether they look at it or don't look at it, it really has no bearing on our focus and what we have to do.
"All this other stuff is window dressing."
The usually calm Niedermayer angrily engaged Alfredsson, but the three-time Cup champion with New Jersey urged his teammates to keep their focus on winning and not retaliating in the third period.
"I'm not the most emotional guy so it's probably a little easier for me than maybe some other guys," Niedermayer said. "I'm sure I learned it from being around other guys that had success in playoff hockey.
"Keeping your focus on what you're trying to do is obviously your best bet."
Pronger, for one, appreciates Niedermayer's low-key attitude.
"It's a calming influence for our team to have our captain as composed as he is out on the ice and it rubs off in a lot of good, positive ways," he said.
Maybe even a championship.