Pronger's No. 1 fan

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Craig MacTavish has seen Chris Pronger's play up close as a teammate and as a rival on the ice.

The advance billing on Pronger from the Oilers' head coach should be more than enough to sell fans on the value of Edmonton's big-name acquisition.

"There's nothing in the game that he can't do and there's nothing in the game that he doesn't excel at," said MacTavish.

Pronger studied MacTavish's habits when the two played together in St. Louis for 63 games over the course of the 1995-97 seasons. They were lessons well learned by the budding defenceman, who would go to captain the Blues.

"He was tremendous in the locker-room and he treated me great," said Pronger of MacTavish.

"I learned a lot by the way he went about his business just preparing for games and practices the same way. Watching the veterans during my early years with the Blues is where I picked up my work ethic that has got me to where I am now."

THE BIG DOG ON D

If there was ever need for a good word when Kevin Lowe started talking to the Blues, MacTavish was there to supply it. Pronger knew a trade was in the works and the Oilers were dogged in their drive to acquire the big dog on D.

"Once they got into the fray, they jumped on it fast and hard just the same way they play," said Pronger.

"I was still a little bit surprised. They were always the ones who were trading and not acquiring players, but this is the new landscape of the league."

The leadership skills that Pronger developed under the watchful eyes of veterans like MacTavish are sure to be present with the Oilers, whether he has a letter on his jersey or not.

"I told Kevin that he has the leaders in place and my job will be to help and support them," said Pronger. "I'll lead by the way I play on the ice and they way I practise. I'm not going to be stepping on anyone's toes and (I'll) make sure that if they need anything then I'm there. And if they don't, then I'm just there playing my tail off."

The biggest benefactor of that approach will be Alexei Semenov, who may just wind up being Pronger's partner on the point.

"That would be a nice-looking pair even in the team picture, with that kind of size," said MacTavish. "A lot will depend on the development of Semy.

LEADERSHIP ABILITIES

"Pronger is another guy with leadership abilities and he's said he'd prefer to come in under the radar screen and just get comfortable in the new situation. That's the best way to integrate himself in with his new teammates and as he gets more comfortable in the locker-room, he'll certainly have a voice in the leadership department."


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