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Ducks defenceman Pronger plays on the edge and sometimes crosses the line

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The Anaheim Ducks GM loves big defenceman that can play with toughness and there might be none better at doing that than the towering Pronger.

Unfortunately, there's also a cost associated with his style of play.

The Ducks will pay that price for a second time during these playoffs with the announcement Sunday that Pronger has been suspended for Monday's Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final.

Burke didn't necessarily agree with league disciplinarian Colin Campbell's decision, but he knows the NHL wants to eliminate hits to the head and there's no denying that Pronger caught Ottawa's Dean McAmmond square in the jaw with his forearm in Game 3.

"We'll take our one game," said Burke. "That's Colin's job and it's a tough one and we'll take it."

Pronger was also suspended for a game during the Western Conference final against Detroit, which makes him just the third player ever to be suspended twice during one post-season.

But that's just how it goes for a guy who plays on the edge.

Pronger has no plans of suddenly turning soft when he gets back in the lineup for Game 5 in Anaheim.

"I don't think I can, for me to be the type of player I can be," he explained. "Obviously it's a fine line and it's getting finer and finer every year.

"We have to make subtle adjustments, but I don't think I can make wholesale changes and still be the type of player I can be."

This case highlights how tough the fight against shots to the head will continue to be for the NHL. Pronger is seven inches taller than McAmmond and appeared to be a bit off-balance when he hit him on a rush.

The Senators felt Pronger intended to do it while the Ducks argued he didn't.

Either way, Campbell surely didn't want to take one of the best players in the series out for a game. But he needed to send a message.

"We all know how precious it is to chase the Stanley Cup," said Campbell. "It's a tough decision to make."

What angered the Ducks most was that Senators tough guy Chris Neil didn't receive similar supplementary discipline for a high hit on Andy McDonald midway through the second period of Game 3.

Burke asked Campbell to look closer at that incident and was told to mind his own business.

"The most dangerous play in the game last night was not Chris Pronger's hit on Dean McAmmond," said Burke. "It was Neil's hit on Andy McDonald."

The series suddenly seems to have some simmering tension with the Senators having narrowed it to 2-1 and the teams exchanging subtle shots heading into Game 4.

Anaheim won the game it played against the Red Wings without Pronger and isn't yet conceding this one. The Ducks still expect to play tough.

"It's pretty hard to change your style now," said defenceman Sean O'Donnell.

The task would be much easier with Pronger in the lineup.

This suspension is the seventh of his 13-year career and several of the Senators noted that he was a repeat offender.

"You can crack down on it, but obviously he hasn't learned from the past because he's still doing it," said Neil.

Pronger's teammates bristle at those suggestions.

"He's a hell of a teammate and a hell of a guy," said veteran forward Brad May. "I'm certainly proud to have him on my team.

"I'll tell you right now, if anybody's looking at these black spots to describe who he is, they're wrong."

Even Campbell acknowledged that Pronger's height might work against them on these type of plays.

He stands about six-foot-eight on skates and routinely faces guys that aren't any taller than the Ducks logo on his sweater.

"When I look at it, there's pluses and minuses to being six-six," said Campbell.

The Ducks will accept those minuses - even if they include the occasional suspension at the most important time of year.

"The positives Chris Pronger brings to the table far outweigh any of the negatives," said coach Randy Carlyle.

There are people in Ottawa eager to vilify Pronger for a hit that has put McAmmond's participation in the remainder of the series in doubt.

The response they'll get from Anaheim is that it's simply part of the game.

"He doesn't go around trying to knock guys heads off," said defenceman Ric Jackman, who will see more ice time in Pronger's absence. "It's unfortunate that it's happened twice in the Stanley Cup playoffs for us, but I wouldn't classify Chris as a dirty player.

"He plays hard. He's a competitor. Stuff like this happens."



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