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With Pronger and Chara, Enter at Your Own Risk

Tuesday, 05.4.2010 / 4:37 PM ET / News
By Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com
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With Pronger and Chara, Enter at Your Own Risk
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(Philadelphia, PA) - When it comes to intimidation along the blue line, there is no more menacing sight than Philadelphia's Chris Pronger or Boston's Zdeno Chara.

They are both big, strong, powerful shooters and infectious leaders.

"Chris' job is just like Chara's job on the other side," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "To try and play the skill guys with an edge."
Boston Bruins center Marc Savard (91) collides with Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger (20) into the boards during the second period of Game 2 of a second-round NHL hockey playoff series in Boston on Monday, May 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Pronger has logged a League-leading 29:10 of ice time and averaged 34.7 shifts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Chara is second in ice time (28:55) and is second in penalty minutes (27).

As you might expect, both have put in herculean efforts in the opening two games of this riveting Eastern Conference Semifinal series that resumes Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS). The Bruins hold a 2-0 series lead after a pair of one-goal triumphs at TD Garden.

It's remarkable the attention both Pronger and Chara command. Fans can't miss them and neither can those forwards willing to venture into their corner, knowing full well these behemoths will be lining him up.

Pronger has 24 blocked shots and 11 hits in seven postseason matches. Chara has 22 hits and 12 blocked shots in eight.

"When I first started in the League, those big defensemen couldn't skate, but now they're great skaters," Boston's Mark Recchi said. "It's just trying to find that edge any way you can and a willingness to go into areas that aren't too enjoyable."

While the similarities are pretty obvious in both, there are also some unique differences that make each of them unique.

"I think he's his own player and I'm my own player," Pronger told NHL.com. "You start trying to compare all sorts of guys, it's difficult. He plays a certain way and I play a certain way."

"One is apple and one is orange," Chara said. "We all know he's a great player. He's been in the League for many years, he's obviously a winner; it's hard to compare."

Since both were unwilling to play along, it was time to search out a few teammates who would.

"I think they're pretty different as much as they are physical," Boston defenseman Andrew Ference said. "I look at the way they play the game. Pronger is a mean man in front of the net and he plays with a real edge and rides that line of legal and not legal and he does it as well as anybody.

"'Z' can be tough as hell, but I don't think he rides that line as much with some of the play in front of the net."

For many of the League's most skilled forwards, like the Flyers' Danny Briere, planning on how to attack Chara isn't easy, especially when you're 11 inches shorter.

"He's so big and strong, you're not going to hurt him going directly at him," Briere said. "You're not going to run over him, so what you try and do is make him work for his ice, make him work for the puck. You make him turn back, pivot and go the distance. He's their best player and their leader. But that's part of the game, every team has them and you have to find ways to get it done."

Flyers forward Scott Hartnell, never one to shy away from big collisions, prefers the sneaky approach.

"If you can get a hit on him when he's not looking -- a clean check -- that would be nice, but it's when he's facing you and you know he's going to hit you even though you're trying to hit him," Hartnell said. "That's when it's tough because you know darn well he's going to hit you twice as hard. You have to hit his hands to take his stick away and try and outwork him."

Ference also revealed one other difference.

"I think Pronger likes to hold on to the puck longer when he brings it up ice," he said. "'Z' makes that quick outlet pass and moves to join the rush where Pronger holds onto it. So I don't see them being super similar, but they're very tall and strong. Did I mention that?"

Pronger is well aware of what Chara is capable of doing. In fact, he's in tune to what many of the League's top defenders can accomplish and admits he's never too old to learn something new.

"I'm not watching them specifically," Pronger said. "I'm watching a play in general. How they handle X-player, what that player tried to do to beat them, what they did to negate it, what they didn't do and got beat. All those little things are what you look for. I don't necessarily key in on (Nicklas) Lidstrom or Chara. You're kind of looking to see what they do effectively to stymie a 3-on-2, pick up a 2-on-1 or intercept a pass. You try and see what he's reading."

Ditto for Chara, who says there's always room to improve.

"You always try and learn something new," he said. "When I watch defensemen, I like to pick up what they do in different situations. You can never get satisfied or complacent in this League; you have to try and get better."

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