SUN Hockey Pool

Odd couple lines up on defence

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Talk about the long and the short of it.

When Chris Pronger made his debut with the Edmonton Oilers for training camp at Rexall Place yesterday, he took his first twirl paired with Marc-Andre Bergeron on Team Blue.

The vertically challenged Bergeron is the Oilers' shortest defenceman, listed generously at five-foot-10, while Pronger is six-foot-six. The tandem looked a little bit like a hockey version of Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie, Twins.

"Having a guy like that, it's awesome," Bergeron said of the new marquee man in town. "He's probably, like, the best defenceman in the world. He and (Zdeno) Chara are probably the top two in the world."

While coach Craig MacTavish hasn't finalized his pairings, Bergeron would be tickled to end up teamed with Pronger - his considerable skills aside, big No. 44 plays about 28 minutes a night. "I wouldn't mind that, for sure," Bergeron understated. "It would be a great chance to play with a guy like that. Hopefully, I'm going to have the chance as long as possible."

Like many people at the rink yesterday, forward Ryan Smyth noticed the odd couple pairing right away. "A couple of strides, he's at the other end of the rink," Smyth said of Pronger. "Then you get Bergy. He has to take 20 strides to get to the other end of the rink."

As for Pronger, it goes without saying the former Norris Trophy winner will matchup fine with whoever he ends up playing alongside. "You've got to find out where guys like to go, where guys like the puck," said Pronger. "You need to be able to react on the ice without even needing time to think about it. Over time, you learn. You need to start early on."

WING AND A PRAYER: You can use pen instead of pencil in filling out your line-up card with Smyth on left wing this year. Forced into duty at centre in 2003-04 with the Oilers short at pivot - an assignment Smyth handled with more aplomb than success - he won't need to fill in as the man in the middle this season with Peca in the fold.

"I played some at centre in junior, maybe 10 games, but I've been up and down the wing for a lot of years in the NHL," Smyth said. "It was a great experience, and I got a new perspective for the game, but I'm comfortable on the wing."


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