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Pronger accustomed to the playoff pressure-cooker

by John McGourty
PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Pronger has been no stranger to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after first making it there in 1996 with the St. Louis Blues. In fact, Pronger hasn't missed out on playoff hockey since, making it to the Stanley Cup Final with the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 and winning it all the following year with the Anaheim Ducks.

Pronger will get a chance to make it back to the Final when his current team, the Philadelphia Flyers, try to close out their series with the Montreal Canadiens with Game 5 scheduled for Monday at the Wachovia Center (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

Sunday, Pronger addressed aspects of his postseason career and the Flyers' current run with the media:
Q:  Your teammates are talking about how nothing seems to rattle you and you bring a real sense of calmness to this team. You've been in the playoffs 14 straight years. Has this kind of developed as you've gotten older and more mature in this League?

Pronger:  Yeah, I think you learn it. You obviously have to have gone through a lot of different experiences, and some good, some bad, some indifferent. I think that was one of the biggest messages that I tried to get across after (a 5-1 loss) in Game 3, was it's only one game, just like the first two were only a part of the puzzle.

You can't get too focused on one game. We've obviously got to look at Game 5 as a huge test for us. Their backs have been against the wall a few times in these playoffs and they've always come out and played extremely well. We need to understand that and stay focused. But really, after Game 3, it was all about just trying to relieve as much of the tension and stress as I could, and just allow the guys to kind of relax and refocus and re-energize themselves, which we were able to do.

Q: How hard is that to do? When you're in such an intense pressure cooker there and you see yourself on the ice and you look just so relaxed out there?

Pronger:  Well, I think because I've been in those situations before. You learn how to handle it. And also, I've played with a lot of great players that I've been able to learn an awful lot from, kind of watch and see what they did in those situations. You can take a lot out of what other great players do in the game -- certainly one of them is how they handle tough defeats and how they handle wins as well. Try to keep everybody on an even keel and understand it's a long process.

Q:  Who do you have on your mind? Are you thinking of a player that was like that?

Pronger:  Lots of guys. Obviously, as recent as Scotty (Niedermayer) in Anaheim, his demeanor really doesn't change whether it's preseason or the playoffs. But he's a pretty laid-back guy. But that kind of helps in the locker room and around the rink and what not. Just not changing who you are, whether it's preseason, regular season, playoffs, just kind of go about your business. Understand that you've got to prepare and be focused. But try to make sure that guys are relaxed and yet know what's at stake.

Q: Were you surprised at all with how well Jeff Carter played last night? Four hits, four shots, the nice move at the blue line around Travis Moen, considering he still limps pretty good when he's getting around?

Pronger:  Yeah, I don't think anything really surprises me with some of these guys. He's obviously a very talented player, a guy who can skate and has a great shot. Saw some of his moves there yesterday. I think it's really a testament to the character he has and the hard work that he put in while he was out. It's tough to stay in shape when you can't really do a whole lot. But he's one of those guys that I don't know if he's got a lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers or what, but he can scoot, whether he's laid off for four weeks or not. He played very well yesterday.

Q: Braydon Coburn has played a lot of minutes in the postseason and played well. Is there an aspect of his game that he's really picked up in the postseason?

Pronger:  You know what, I think just his reads, making that quick first pass, getting it out of the zone. He's obviously a great skater, and that kind of gets him out of a lot of trouble. But really it's just moving the puck quickly, getting it up to the forwards and allowing them to do their jobs and supporting the attack from there. He's a big guy that's tough to beat one-on-one, and he's obviously done an excellent job for us thus far.

Q:  There is always a lot of talk from the outside about how many minutes you've been playing. But are you just the type of guy that's like, bring it on, I'll rest when this is over?

Pronger:  Yeah. I've always played a lot of minutes, so it's not like it's anything new.

Q:  But you're 35, right?

Pronger:  Well, I was 25 at one point. I was 20 at one point. I was 30 at one point. It is what it is. You just have to make sure you rest when you get an opportunity and take care of your body. As you mentioned, I am 35, but there's a lot of guys in the League that were older than me that play just as many minutes. Really, it's all about taking care of yourself and playing that next game.

Q: A lot was made after one and two, you guys hadn't played your best games despite the shutouts. Do you feel, after Game 4, that now you've gotten to that point?

Pronger:  Yeah, we've certainly played a lot better. That was probably our best game of the series right there. A lot better first period, but we started getting into our rhythm in the second period, getting pucks in deep, get something sustained pressure cycles, creating some turnovers and getting some chances off those turnovers. So we started to kind of get back into our flow and rhythm and the way that we play. So if we can continue to move our feet like that, get into that cycle again, we'll hopefully have the same results tomorrow.

Q: What about a veteran player trying to guide through this process, what role does the coach play in that? How does Peter (Laviolette) handle this compared to the other guys you've played with?

Pronger:  You know what, it's a big deal how the coach handles things. He's obviously done -- I think he's done an excellent job of keeping us focused and understanding: just worry about that next game. Don't worry about the stakes, don't worry about what's coming next. It's worrying about that next game. A lot of our meetings are really just focused on the game at hand. Today's was about tomorrow. Don't look past tomorrow's game. They're obviously a team that, as we said, has come out very well when their backs have been against the wall; and we expect nothing less from them tomorrow night. We need to come with our best to be successful.

Q: Is it hard to put out of your mind what's at stake?

Pronger:  No, not at all. Because you start looking too far ahead, and you're going to get bit real quick. As I just said, they're a team that has shown a lot of resiliency in these playoffs, and we've got to stay focused on the task at hand, and that's winning tomorrow night's game; and we need to be closers and step on it when we can.

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