Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 04/05/07 at 04:51 PM ET
Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer took part in an NHL tele-conference today.
Q Chris, this question is for you. Just looking back to last year, having gone through the long playoff grind with Edmonton, obviously you never want to be hurt, but were maybe the injuries you had this year a little bit of a blessing in disguise in that they may leave you a little more rested for a long run this year?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think only time can tell in that situation. But I felt great last year and now leading into the playoffs this year I feel really good. So hopefully it’s an omen.
Q Looking back again to last year, what was the biggest thing you learned from that long run, whether it’s preparing for the games or saving your energy or anything like that?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think you have to leave it out on the ice every time you’re playing. Momentum is a funny thing. You’ve got to continue to push forward and continue to garner that momentum and stick with it so that you’re able to win those key games, those critical games. The overtime games, things of that nature that continue to give you life and momentum are such a huge boost to teams. I think last year we did a pretty good job in overtime games and close games throughout the playoffs.
Q This is for both guys. We just got our playoff preview stories assigned and mine is to try to pick a Stanley Cup winner and explain who is going to come out of the pack. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it be as close as it is right now in terms of both conferences. I was wondering if you guys could lend some assistance and give me a sense of is there a favorite out there, or is it ?? in your vast experience has it ever been this close? Chris.
CHRIS PRONGER: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it this close. I think it just goes to show you, the moves that teams have made through off?season moves, deadline moves and obviously drafting, there’s a lot more parity in the league. And certainly with the eight teams that are going to get into the West, possibly having over 100 points, and out East with how tight it is out there, you know it’s a toss?up. Any team can get hot, much like we did last year in Edmonton as the eighth seed and the previous year, Calgary as a seventh seed. Anybody can get hot, get great goaltending. And anybody can go all the way. From where we’re sitting, it’s a scary thought but at the same time we’re potentially a team that could go all the way as well. So you can look at it both ways. But it’s certainly going to be an exciting playoff run, that’s for sure.
SCOTT NIEDERMAYER: There’s not much to add to that. The standings tell the story there. There’s a lot of great teams out there and the playoffs should be entertaining because of that. Any one of the playoff series could be extremely tight. It’s definitely going to be a difficult road.
Q My question is for Scott. When you came to town, how much do guys in Anaheim, were they talking about getting to Game 7 against you guys when you were with the Devils, coming so close to winning the Cup and then falling short?
SCOTT NIEDERMAYER: We haven’t talked about it much. I think probably not a great memory in that sense as far as Game 7. The whole playoff run for them I’m sure was a great experience. But I’ve been on that side of it losing in Game 7 in a Stanley Cup final, and it’s a pretty tough feeling, the amount of work and commitment you’ve put in to get that far and to come up just ever so short is tough.
But it’s, like I said, a great accomplishment to do that. We’re looking forward. We’re trying to do something here and compete as hard as we can, and we haven’t really talked about that a whole lot.
Q I was just wondering if both you gentlemen could comment on having each other’s company. It’s very, very rare nowadays to have two really high?minute defensemen together, and I’m just wondering what you sort of mean to each other in a sense?
SCOTT NIEDERMAYER: Just as a teammate, adding a player like Chris that contributes in all areas of the game. That’s what we like to see. You like to see your team get better. You like to see your team acquiring these type of players to help your team be better.
As far as on a personal level, we play together a bit on the power play. That’s really when we hit the ice together most often. I’ve enjoyed that. We sort of complement each other on what we’re able to do, what we bring to a situation like that. It’s been easy and fun .
CHRIS PRONGER: I think it’s been a pretty easy transition. I think we both played, he played with Scott Stevens in New Jersey and I played with Al MacInnis in St. Louis and kind of similar situations, but those players being about 10 years older than each of us.
So to be pretty much the same age and in the prime of our careers, to be able to go out on the ice and, as Scott said, we really only play together on the power play. But we’re able to learn from each other in practice and throughout the course of the games, being able to play with a player of Scott’s caliber and character certainly is something that not only I but our whole team can learn from.
Q More of a follow?up to the last question, but how is playing 30 minutes game in game out for both of you, what do you have to do to not get worn out heading into the playoffs and also keep up that intensity once you get there?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think both of us have played a lot of minutes throughout the course of our careers. We know how to handle it and how to handle those types of minutes, and I don’t foresee it being an issue for either of us. But I don’t want to speak for Scott.
SCOTT NIEDERMAYER: I hope not (chuckling). Like Chris said, we didn’t just fall into it this year. I mean it’s sort of something we’ve been used in those situations for a number of years, and you get used to it. And maybe there’s times where you get a little more rest than some of the other players that aren’t playing as much, you try to take advantage of that. Obviously it’s important when the playoffs do roll around that you have a full tank and you’re ready to go.
Q Guys, I know we still have a ways to go here, or not all that long, but it’s shaping up more and more like you’re going to be facing off against the Minnesota Wild in that first round. If you can, can you give me your thoughts on what facing that squad would be like should that match?up happen?
CHRIS PRONGER: Like you said, there’s things that are yet to be determined. I think the best comment I would make on that is every one of the eight teams that’s going to be in the playoffs this year is capable of playing very good hockey. And it’s going to be a very tough opponent no matter who it is. And Minnesota is one of those teams. They’re a great hockey club. They have a great coach. And any opponent we have is go be a tough challenge.
Q Maybe if you can, as far as the Wild are concerned, just going up against them in general then, what are a couple of things that would concern you most against that Minnesota Wild team?
SCOTT NIEDERMAYER: I think the biggest thing in the games we’ve played them, they have a very potent power play. I think the biggest thing for us would be to stay out of the box, force them to play 5?on?5 against us.
If you look at, as I mentioned earlier, the games we played against them, their power play was pretty dominant in a couple of the games and they got to us.
But I think both teams match up pretty well against one another. They obviously play a tight defensive system. But at the same time they’ve got some breakout guys, Gaborik and Rolston and Demitra, guys that can put the puck in the net. So you have to be leery of thoseguys defensively as well.
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