Three's the charm for Oilers blueliner

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- It's a three-peat for Chris Pronger.

The Edmonton Oilers defenceman got the news that everyone expected yesterday when he was named to the 23-man roster with Team Canada for the 2006 Olympics in Turin.

It'll be the third Olympics for the 31-year-old blueliner from Dryden, Ont., who wore the Maple Leaf in 1998 and again in 2002 with Canada's gold-medal team in Salt Lake as a member of the St. Louis Blues.

"When you're looking at the Olympic stage, it's a tremendous honour to play for your country and have that opportunity," Pronger said. "Having gone to the 1998 and 2002 Olympics, it's definitely something you cherish."

Like teammate Ryan Smyth, Pronger has plenty of international experience on his resume, dating back to the World Junior Championships in 1992. Of course, donning the country's silks never gets routine.

"In 2002, there was a lot of expectations on us, as it should be," said Pronger, who was paired with Al MacInnis in Salt Lake.

"With the calibre of players that were going for all the countries, you looked at the rosters up and down and there was a tremendous amount of skill."

When Pronger's first Olympic call came in 1998, he was a kid, relatively speaking - he was a 23-year-old playing alongside veterans Ray Bourque and Scott Stevens. He was still two seasons away from his Hart and Norris Trophy campaign of 1999-2000.

"That was an experience," Pronger said of his first Olympics. "You're kind of green and wet behind the ears.

"You get a little bit more experience and you realize what's going on, you can take a little bit more in. It's a good time."

Pronger went into last night's game against the Canucks with 2-15-17 and plus-8 rating in 33 games.

Not huge offensive numbers, to be sure, but he plays 28 minutes a night and has been a model of quiet consistency on the Oilers blueline since being acquired from St. Louis Aug. 2.

"I don't think there's a more dominant defenceman in the game," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "He goes from good to great sometimes, but never worse than really good.

"I don't think there's been a better defenceman in the game. You'll probably get an argument somewhere, but I'd be hard-pressed to find somebody I'd want more than him."

Colorado's Rob Blake and Adam Foote of Columbus will be the other three-time Olympians on the blueline for Team Canada.

"We've got a lot of experience," Pronger said of a veteran-laden blueline.

"With us losing Steve (Yzerman) and Mario (Lemieux), those are two big holes from our leadership.

"It's going to be a tough chore for us to fill in what we lose with those two guys being out, but the guys they've chosen all have experience."


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