Pronger: I don't buy into 'favorites' label

May, 30, 2010

CHICAGO -- Leave it to Chris Pronger to set the mood for the Flyers after a disappointing loss in Game 1. A little combative, a little sarcastic, Pronger was pure entertainment in his back-and-forth with the media Sunday.

Pronger was asked about the much-anticipated clash with Chicago's red-hot power forward Dustin Byfuglien, who was pointless and minus-3 in Game 1.

"There was a lot of talk. You guys had a lot to say about him, so I guess we needed to calm that down real quick," Pronger said. "I have played in the West for 14 years. I played against him a lot, so it's not like I've been out East for my whole career and never played against the guy. That may have been blown out of proportion, I think."

The big defenseman also took issue with the notion that the Flyers were heavy underdogs in this series and needed to prove they could play with Chicago.

"Favorite to who? To you guys? This crew in here? All that matters is what we think in that locker room and that's it," Pronger said. "Whether the world is picking them as favorites, we've all seen probably one of the most heavily favored Super Bowls, St. Louis against the New England Patriots, and that didn't turn out very well, did it? A lot of people lost money on that one.

"I don't really buy into the favorites, underdogs, all that. I think from the get-go we believe we can beat that team. Do we need to tighten up a few things and play better defensively? Absolutely. That's why it's a best-of-seven series."

When it came to answering questions about the Flyers' goaltending situation with coach Peter Laviolette initially refusing to name a starter for Game 2 during his news conference (he later announced Michael Leighton would get the nod), Pronger was likewise a bit prickly.

"That's news to me. Are you starting to stir the pot? It's news to me," Pronger said. "Maybe he's keeping you on your toes, too."

Pronger refused to speculate on how the goaltending situation might play out and when asked to say anything, he shot back, "I don't think I will because I don't like the way you phrased your question."

As for the fact Pronger led all players with 32:21 in ice time, the veteran defenseman joked that he couldn't believe he was even awake.

"It's exhausting. I don't know. I couldn't get up this morning. I don't even know how I'm sitting here. I almost fell asleep," he said.

"You know what, it is what it is. It is that time of year," Pronger added. "You do what you can to help your team win, whether it's playing that many minutes or 24 or whatever is asked of you, you do. You prepare yourself to play as much as you're asked to play. Whether it means you have to shorten your shifts a little bit or alter your game a little bit, you do that. But I feel good. Had some treatment and feel good. I'm ready to go tomorrow."

Soccer moves and stitches

Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson was sporting a nice weave of stitches over his left eye Sunday courtesy of a Ville Leino shot that bounced off his noggin and into the Chicago net for the first goal in Saturday's Game 1.

How did it feel a day later?

"Good. Looks better than ever," the talented young Swedish defender said. "It was a header right in the net."

Was that something he and netminder Antti Niemi have been working on in practice?

"Antti, he usually shoots some pucks at my head and I try and get it in my own net," Hjalmarsson joked. "It's lucky that we won the game because we were just laughing about it a little bit. It was just a bad bounce, nothing you can do about it really. It's just bad luck. I didn't even see the puck. It was just boom and the puck was in the net."

As a child growing up in Sweden, Hjalmarsson played a lot of soccer, but admitted he was better with his feet than his head. Fellow blueliner Brent Seabrook was also sporting a similar cut in almost exactly the same place after Game 1.

"It's pretty funny we have exactly the same [cut]," Hjalmarsson said. "I think he got seven stitches too, so it's a little weird."

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?