Pronger suspension leaves Ducks scrambling
If the Anaheim Ducks are to rebound from an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings two days ago, they'll have to do so without the services of their best post-season performer.
The NHL suspended defenceman Chris Pronger, who leads the Ducks with 12 points, for Game 4 of the Western Conference final (CBC, 9 p.m. ET) Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif.
The Wings lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
The league disciplined Pronger on Wednesday for what it called "a blow to the head" on Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom during the second period of Detroit's victory in Game 3 Tuesday night.
Pronger and Rob Niedermayer drove Holmstrom into the boards, dropping the Swede to the ice for several minutes. Niedermayer received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his actions, but officials didn't penalize Pronger.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said Ric Jackman will take Pronger's spot in the lineup.
Holmstrom, who received 13 stitches in the intermission, returned to action in the third period and finished the game with two goals and an assist.
"I don't know," argued Ducks defenceman Scott Niedermayer during a conference call Wednesday. "I'm just trying to figure out what they're looking at. The call [Tuesday night] was five minutes to Rob Niedermayer. [Wednesday] they're talking to Chris. Does that make sense to anybody?"
Need to play with discipline
The better question Scott Niedermayer and the rest of his teammates need to ask is can the Ducks gain enough discipline in time to even their series before heading back to Detroit?
It's a year-long problem that has finally caught up to the team.
The Ducks committed another 11 penalties on Monday, totalling 33 minutes in the box. While the Wings only scored once on the power play, it was their fifth of the series to go with a short-handed tally.
The Ducks are also averaging 20 minutes of infractions a game, more than any remaining playoff team.
"That's the biggest thing we've been battling all year," Anaheim winger Teemu Selanne told Hockey Night In Canada. "Obviously, you can get away with a few, but if you keep taking penalties it's going to hurt everybody. Some guys are killing too many penalties and some are not playing at all [as a result]."
With the absence of Pronger and forward Chris Kunitz, who is out with a broken bone in his hand, some of the offensive burden will fall on Selanne.
The veteran led the Ducks in the regular season with 48 goals, but has faltered in the post-season, withjust three goals in 13 playoff games and he hasn't scored since Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal against the Vancouver Canucks.
"It's a little frustrating sometimes when you can't find the net," said Selanne. "But I think I've had some chances and that's always a good sign. I really believe as a goal scorer, you need one then usually good things happen."
The Wings are coming off their best game of the series, knocking out Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere with three goals on 13 shots. The goalie change didn't make a difference as Holmstrom put one by backup Ilya Bryzgalov 17 seconds after the Russian replaced Giguere.
"We think we can continue to get better," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "We thought we had the puck more. We thought we made better plays, and therefore had more speed.We have to continue to do that if we want to be successful."
Despite the one-sided victory, Detroit centre Kris Draper said he doesn't expect the Ducks to wilt in Game 4.
"They will be ready to go," he said. "That's a team that has a lot of pride. They are going to respond."