Ducks earn top billing

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

They arrive with a billing akin to a pair of superheroes.

Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, the mightiest of the Anaheim Ducks, make up a pair of defencemen rarely seen in NHL history. And now the Flames and their faithful are about to see their act at the Saddledome.

Having combined their forces this season in Southern California, the pair of Norris Trophy winners are wreaking havoc on the Western Conference.

In fact, heading into last night's clash in Vancouver against the Canucks, they've made Anaheim nearly unstoppable.

Which begs the question: What do you do to minimize their damage?

Certainly the query made Calgary Flames forward Marcus Nilson pause a long time in thought.

"I don't know," he finally said. "This is our first game against them and I haven't seen them play.

"They're two of the best defencemen in the league. That's a tough question."

One they'll have to solve by tonight's puck drop (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet).

When the Ducks acquired Pronger this past summer from the Edmonton Oilers -- the famed trade necessitated for "personal reasons" -- you couldn't help but think it would mean great things for the quack attack.

After all, the Ducks already had Niedermayer, a Norris Trophy-winning defenceman capable of controlling a game while playing half of it. In Pronger, it meant the Ducks had two such beasts.

They've both delivered. Heading into last night's action, both were tied with San Jose's stellar rookie Matt Carle for most points among the league's defencemen (14). Anaheim, 11-0-4 before facing the Canucks last night, is near the top in both powerplay and penalty killing.

Oh yeah, both are logging more than 27 minutes per game.

Apparently it wasn't a tough chore figuring out how to meld the two stars together.

Not that Flames head coach Jim Playfair, an old defenceman himself, foresaw it being any trouble making it work.

"I played the position but not like that," Playfair said. "The one thing they both are very good at is being good pros and both understand the importance of being on the ice at critical times in the game. You get two guys that can log 30 minutes and you can move them around with the special teams, I don't see how that would ever be a conflict."

Certainly not for the Ducks.

For the rest of the league, well, that's another story.

Having both Pronger and Niedermayer at their disposal for the powerplay, the Ducks are clicking at an impressive 22% with the man advantage. Even more important is the job they're capable of doing in the defensive zone.

On top of being outstanding defenders -- Niedermayer using his finesse and Pronger with his size -- they both are great passers.

There aren't many weaknesses for the Flames to attack.

"They're both gonna log a ton of minutes, they're two of the best defencemen in the league, so we've got to make them as tough of minutes as we can," said forward Darren McCarty. "That means getting pucks behind them, making them battle in the corners and in front of the net, putting the body on them whenever you can.

"If we can draw penalties, getting them out there killing penalties might tire them a bit out."

Nilson figures a relentless forecheck is the best way to deal with Pronger and Niedermayer.

"The most important thing for us is to focus on our game," he said.


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