Don't expect Chris Pronger to change his ways coming off his second suspension in the Stanley Cup playoffs. After all, the Anaheim Ducks star defenseman has been hitting hard since he picked up a hockey stick at age 5.
"I'm not going to be worried about anything, bud," Pronger told reporters yesterday after the Ducks returned home with a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Anaheim could give California its first Stanley Cup championship with a victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 tonight.
The Ducks are 2-0 in games following Pronger's playoff suspensions.
"We've got a group here that's been pretty good all year long at keeping distractions out of the way of what's at stake and what our task is," he said. "This game is no different. Obviously, the implications are a lot higher."
Pronger was suspended Sunday for elbowing Senators forward Dean McAmmond in the head early in the third period of Anaheim's Game 3 loss. It was the second ban in these playoffs for the aggressive and physical Pronger and his seventh overall in 14 NHL seasons.
"We feel good about having him back, but again, he's one member of our hockey club," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "All we want is Chris Pronger to be Chris Pronger."
So expect more of Pronger's uninhibited play tonight.
"You don't have time to think out there, you've got to react," he said. "You got to do what you do best and play the game the way you know how."
Pronger is in the finals for the second consecutive year after helping Edmonton reach the championship series during his only season with the Oilers. His demand for a trade shortly after they lost to Carolina in the finals brought him to Anaheim.
"That's something you have to guard against -- letting your emotions get to you, letting there be distractions," Pronger said. "Scotty [Niedermayer] has got some great advice for you: Worry about the game and don't worry about anything else."
"We know we're in a tough one," Alfredsson said. "It's not going to be easy. I'm sure there's not a lot of people that believe we can do it. [But] we have nothing to lose now. We're going to go out there and try to bring it home to Ottawa for Game 6. There's no question we believe we can do that."
Each of the Senators' six losses in these playoffs have been by one goal.
"Obviously, it's frustrating a little bit losing tight games, not scoring maybe as easy as we did the first couple rounds," Ottawa's Jason Spezza said. "But we have no time to really think about it -- we have to turn this thing around."
"It's going to be kind of a weird feeling," McDonald said. "You've got to try and keep that out of your mind. The reality is, you've got to prepare like all the other games."
Ottawa's 5-3 victory over Anaheim in Game 3 Saturday night received a 1.1 national rating and a 2 share, the network said yesterday. That matched a rerun of "The West Wing" July 23, 2005, which also drew a 1.1 rating.
Saturday's rating was down 31 percent from last year's Game 3 between Edmonton and Carolina, which had a 1.6/3.
The national ratings for Monday night's Game 4 declined less sharply from last year, receiving a 1.9/3, down 5 percent from the 2.0/3 for Game 4 in 2006.