Pronger’s name is not engraved on the Stanley Cup. Niedermayer’s name is listed three times. Pronger is a former winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman. He’s been nominated again this season. Niedermayer also is a former winner of the Norris and is one of the finalists this season with Pronger and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings. So alike and yet so different, Pronger and Niedermayer form quite a combination for the Ducks. Although they do not often play together, they can be considered the top one-two punch in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger stands 6-foot-6. He’s outgoing, funny and always willing to chat – even when he acts like he’d rather be getting a root canal. Scott Niedermayer is 6-1. He’s reserved, guarded in his comments to reporters and certainly not prone to playful banter. Pronger, 32, hails from Dryden, Ontario, and was a member of the gold-medal winning Canadian Olympic team in 2002. Niedermayer, 33, was born in Edmonton. He also won gold in 2002. Together and separately, they led the Ducks to franchise records for victories (48) and points (110) during the regular season and matching 4-1 series wins in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now it gets tougher. The second-seeded Ducks face the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference finals. Game 1 will be Friday at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. General manager Brian Burke traded for Pronger last summer for just this moment, to ensure that the team’s march to the Stanley Cup finals is not derailed for a second consecutive season. Burke signed Niedermayer as a free agent in the summer of 2005 in order to give the Ducks a bona fide superstar on their blue line. “My hunch was he was going to be a great player in the NHL,” Burke said of Pronger, whom he drafted second overall while serving as general manager of the Hartford Whalers in 1993. “He’s delivered for us. “Scotty is just a joy. You don’t realize how good he is until you watch him play every day.” Pronger is averaging 31:13 of ice time and Niedermayer 29:45 during the playoffs. Pronger has three goals and eight assists for a team-leading 11 points in 10 playoff games. Niedermayer has one goal and four assists. “It’s been an easy transition,” Pronger said of joining the Ducks after helping to defeat them in the conference finals last season while with the Edmonton Oilers. “We’re able to learn from each other in practice and throughout the course of the games.” Niedermayer signed with the Ducks after having played his previous 13 seasons with the New Jersey Devils. In Anaheim, he joined his younger brother, Rob, two years after helping to defeat the Ducks in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals. Scott Niedermayer said he appreciates what Pronger has brought to the Ducks. “Adding a player like Chris who contributes in all areas of the game, that’s what you like to see,” he said.. “You like to see your team get better. We sort of complement each other in what we’re able to do, what we bring to a situation like this. It’s been fun and easy.” Pronger is usually matched with Sean O’Donnell. “He’s the best I’ve ever played with, as far as all-around game,” O’Donnell said of Pronger. “Having him as a partner has been great for my year. He’s a smart player. He’s got a long reach. He’s strong as a bull.” Niedermayer most frequently plays with Francois Beauchemin. “He’s helped me in my career a lot,” Beauchemin said. “I wasn’t playing much before I got to play with him. It’s been great just to watch him and see his work ethic. … Scotty’s a quiet guy. When he does talk, the guys listen to him.” Either Pronger or Niedermayer is almost always on the ice, badgering opponents at one end of the ice or looking for scoring chances of their own at the other. Pronger has a heavy shot from the perimeter. Niedermayer, a supremely gifted skater and puck-handler, has a more subtle offensive game. “There’s a toolbox in every player,” Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “Their toolbox is a little more filled with stuff. … Pronger, he’s a decent skater, but he’s better in the defensive zone. Niedermayer, he’s just different. He’s just skating, skating, skating. It’s so easy for him.” Lemaire was a member of the great Montreal Canadiens’ teams of the 1960s and ’70s, an eight-time winner of the Stanley Cup. He played with some great defensemen, including Guy Lapointe, Larry Robinson and Serge Savard. Pronger and Niedermayer each played with superb defensemen before they arrived in Anaheim. Pronger was partnered with Al MacInnis for many years with the St. Louis Blues. Niedermayer played with Scott Stevens in New Jersey. “He has no real weaknesses,” O’Donnell said of Pronger. “It must be frustrating for opponents to play against him.” Said Beauchemin of Niedermayer: “He uses his skating ability as a weapon. We play well together because we read each other. When one is in the corner, the other is in front of the net.” Teemu Selanne, the Ducks’ leading scorer during the regular season with 48 goals and 94 points, has played against both. It wasn’t until he played with them that he could truly appreciate their games, however. “The biggest thing that surprised me is how smart they are,” Selanne said. “The thing about them is they just don’t make mistakes.” [email protected] dailybreeze.com (310) 540-4201 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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