|Nervous Pronger watches Game 4 on TV|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 04 June 2007 19:24|
Unable to play because of a one-game suspension, the Norris Trophy finalist nervously kept up with the progress of his Anaheim Ducks teammates in the comforts of the visiting dressing room at Scotiabank Place.
Call it a lucky seat because the Ducks moved within a win of their first Stanley Cup title by beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 Monday night.
``When you don't have a say in what's going on out there, it's very tough to watch and nerve-racking, more so than when you're in the game,'' the star defenseman said after the Ducks took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
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.
He is in the finals for the second consecutive year after helping Edmonton there during his only season with the Oilers. His demand for a trade shortly after the Oilers were beaten in the finals by Carolina brought him to Anaheim.
Pronger was met with boos throughout Game 3 whenever he touched the puck, and that venom from the red-clad crowd was unleashed long before he knocked down McAmmond.
Suddenly in one year, the man who was the consummate hard-hitter and leader that everyone praised turned into a petulant goon who couldn't be kept in check.
In the span of about three weeks, his actions took him out of the lineup twice just when it seemed the Ducks needed him most. Pronger missed 16 games due to injury in the regular season, and Anaheim went 6-7-3 without him.
The Ducks are 2-0 in games following his playoff suspensions.
``We've got a lot of heart in that locker room,'' Pronger said. ``We've got a lot of guys that stepped up and came up with huge efforts to get us that win.''
Another one on Wednesday, with Pronger in the lineup, would secure Southern California's first Cup title.
``Chris is a big part of our team,'' goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. ``He's a great player and we sure miss him when he's not playing. But he's behind us all the way. I'm sure in a way he feels bad he couldn't help us. But we know he's going to make it up in two days.''
Francois Beauchemin picked up most of the slack in Pronger's absence, logging a game-high 31 minutes, 40 seconds - more than a minute and a half about his postseason average. Scott Niedermayer, also a finalist for the Norris Trophy that is given to the NHL's best regular-season defenseman, was next with 29:23 of ice time.
``I don't think we want to get used to playing without Chris,'' Niedermayer said. ``We realize when he's not there we have to be at our absolute best. Everybody has to do their jobs.''
And that was enough to knock off the Senators, who couldn't take advantage of Pronger's absence or their home crowd.
Top-line forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley both managed to score, but Ottawa was blanked for the game's final 22 minutes.
``We had a big opportunity to even the series,'' forward Jason Spezza said, ``to take momentum. We didn't do it.''