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Pronger boosts Flyers' playoff chances with toughness, unexpected scoring

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

PHILADELPHIA - Chris Pronger's six-foot-six fame had Martin Brodeur bobbing and weaving for a view.

Brodeur's vision was blocked once Pronger planted himself directly in front of New Jersey's goalie on the power play. Pronger turned himself into a skyscraper of a distraction for Brodeur ? who is four inches shorter than Pronger ? and a sudden scoring threat for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Pronger used his own screen to score a goal in Game 2 and mess with Brodeur in the process.

"He wasn't really chirping. He was poking me," Pronger said Saturday. "He tripped me and I fell into him and he was like, 'Ahh, didn't mean it.'

"Shortly thereafter, it was in the net."

Pronger, one of the top defencemen in the NHL, leads the Flyers with two goals in a playoff series even at 1-1 heading into Sunday's Game 3 in Philadelphia. Pronger was brought to Philadelphia to serve as an intimidating blue-line bruiser. His plays with a nasty streak and delivers punishing hits to protect his spot.

When he needs to deflect a puck into the net for a timely goal, Pronger delivers.

"It's nice to contribute, absolutely, but I don't think that's the only thing I do for this team," he said. "It's a big part of the playoffs. Guys need to step up and score goals. I've been fortunate enough to be able to chip in the last couple."

Pronger scored only 10 goals in the regular season. Pronger has 22 career post-season goals ? he had two in 13 games for the Ducks last season and he has scored as many as five in 24 games with Edmonton in 2006. He won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007.

Pronger tapped in a deflection in a Game 1 victory and redirected a shot in a 5-3 loss in Game 2 Friday night.

"He's a big man, and every time you put somebody out there like that, it's tough for the goalies," Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen said. "I'm sure if there's a situation like this, we're going to do it again."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who led the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup title in 2006, was evasive when asked if he'd make Pronger's screen a regular part of the power play.

"It was worth a shot and it worked," he said.

The Flyers felt as though they outplayed the Devils for five of the six periods in the first two games in New Jersey. Flyers goalie Brian Boucher has outplayed Brodeur, and home-ice advantage has shifted to Philadelphia.

"I thought we had a pretty good shot all along," Pronger said. "I don't think it's how many periods you win, it's how many games you win. We feel pretty good about the way we've played."

The Flyers will gladly take more goals from Pronger the rest of the series, but they're probably not going to win if he ends up leading the team in goals like he is through two games. Jeff Carter, who led the Flyers with 33 goals this season, failed to record a point in the first two games and still seems affected by his broken left foot.

Carter returned only two weeks after having surgery ? he was expected to miss three to four weeks ? and has not been able to take quality shots against New Jersey's defence.

"I'm not playing the way I want to so I'm definitely frustrated," Carter said. "There's no limitations. My foot's not an issue. You go out in the playoffs and you play hockey. It doesn't matter what's wrong with you. I've to get it going."

Laviolette was encouraged by Carter's effort in Game 2.

"I saw more game in his game, more jump, a lot more opportunity from him and his line," he said. "When you're out for three weeks, it may take a little bit of time. Things from last night tell me he's pointed in the right direction."

The Devils believe they're also headed the right way after nice effort to even the series.

"They came here to win one hockey game. They did that," Brodeur said after Game 2. "It will be a tough task for us. Philly is a tough building to play in. If we raise our game, we'll be all right."

Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner didn't practice on Saturday because he said he was "mending some bruises."

Langenbrunner is expected to be in the lineup Sunday night.



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