-- Chris Pronger
is all snarl and anger on the ice. But get the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Philadelphia Flyers
defenseman out of his skates and behind a podium, and you get an impish smile and a deadpan, sardonic sense of humor.
Whether he's correcting writers' grammar, griping about having to work overtime to answer questions or making fun of local beat reporters, Pronger seems to be having as much fun off the ice as he does on it.
On the ice, the 35-year-old leads all defenseman in the playoffs with 16 points, his highest postseason total since 2006, when he had 21 points in helping lead the Edmonton Oilers
to the Stanley Cup Final. Pronger is also playing an average of 28:56 per game, highest among all postseason skaters -- he's been over 30 minutes seven times in 19 games -- but he's a plus-3 and has just 28 penalty minutes.
Off the ice, however, he's been a real star.
"He seems comfortable," teammate Danny Briere
said following a team meeting at the Wachovia Center on Tuesday morning. "He seems in his element right now."
"It is the (Stanley Cup) Final," Pronger said. "There is an awful lot of you guys with an awful lot of questions, some of them can be monotonous if Frank (Seravalli, a Philadelphia Daily News reporter) is asking them. You've got to enjoy the moment. It's not every day you get here. I've had the opportunity to be here -- this is now my third time -- you have to relish it and soak it up. You never know when it's going to be your last."
Prior to the question, Pronger tried peering around a speaker stand and pillar to see the questioner. Like most everything else Pronger has done out of uniform, it elicited a roomful of laughter.
"You guys all know Prongs," center Jeff Carter
said. "He's a pretty loose guy, likes to joke around a lot. I think it goes well for our team. Kind of keeps everybody light and just enjoying the moment, just taking it all in."
After Game 2 on Monday, one of the things Pronger took in was the game puck, which he then deposited in a trash can -- "Where it belongs," he said. He did the same thing following the Game 1 loss at the United Center, but after Game 2, Chicago forward Ben Eager
voiced his displeasure at Pronger on the ice. Pronger responded by shooting a towel a fan had thrown onto the ice at Eager. Both players were assessed 10-minute misconducts.
When asked about shooting the towel at Eager after the game, Pronger responded, "I don't know, did I? Wow. You're intuitive. Good for you. Next."
Pronger then was asked what he and Eager were saying, and responded, "I don't speak that language, whatever he was speaking. I couldn't hear him. … Apparently, it got him upset. So I guess it worked, didn't it? It's too bad. I guess little things amuse little minds."
Coach Peter Laviolette
was asked if Pronger's puck thievery was going to provide bulletin board material for the Blackhawks.
"What is it they're going to do?" Laviolette said. "What added incentive do they have now? They're mad? They're angry? It's the playoffs. … I don't know what else they're going to do because we stole their puck. I think it's funny. I think it's kind of comical. Prongs wants the puck? Take it."
"I don't have a problem with it," added Flyers captain Mike Richards
. "If he wants to grab the puck, let him have the puck. It's kind of funny.
"You can tell him not to take it if you want, but I'm not going to."
There will continue to be two parts to every Pronger show, both equally as entertaining.
"I'm sure there's a method," Briere said of Pronger's performances. "He seems to be disturbing a lot of people. We're a team that disturbs a lot of people. I guess he fits right in."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org