Pronger finds net in win

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

His first goal as a member of the Edmonton Oilers wasn't one for the video vault, and it won't count in the record book, but the puck he shot found its way through traffic and tweaked twine -- never a bad thing.

Chris Pronger hasn't yet shown fans what all the fuss was about when GM Kevin Lowe plucked him from the St. Louis Blues Aug. 2, but shift-by-shift and game-by-game, big No. 44 is looking more and more like the dominant defenceman who'll carry the expectations of this town on his shoulders this season.

The rust of a year lost to the NHL lockout isn't all knocked off yet, but after banging an off-speed slapper past rookie Brent Krahn, adding an assist and playing 24:33 in a 4-0 laugher over the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place last night, Pronger looks like he'll be ready to go when the puck drops for keeps against Colorado in seven days.

When it counts.

"I'm feeling pretty good," said Pronger after his best outing in Oilers silks. "It was a long year-and-a-half off, but I think I'm coming around.

"I'm starting to read the plays as they develop and I'm able to get in a lane before the play comes about. That kind of anticipation, read and reaction, of game action is starting to come."

Pronger, who'll celebrate his 31st birthday on Oct. 10, didn't play during the lockout. The former Norris Trophy winner and MVP, like a lot of veterans, has some kinks to work out.

Pronger rid himself of a few last night.

He took a cross-ice feed from Ales Hemsky and drifted a slapper past Krahn on a power play to open the scoring 13:17 into the game. He had a hand, but not an assist, on Ethan Moreau's 2-0 goal three minutes into the second period and he set up Marc-Andre Bergeron's 3-0 power-play goal in the third.

"Chris knows how to get himself ready," said Moreau, who flipped Pronger a puck in the dressing room in jest to mark his goal. "Obviously, there will be some people wondering when he's going to play the way they know he can.

"He's probably the best defenceman in the world and people are waiting for that, but he knows what he's doing. There's a reason he's the best and he'll be ready for day one."

After two assists in his first three games, Pronger finished plus-1, played a regular shift, killed penalties, worked the power play and had a sliding block on a Steve Reinprecht shot, one of his three blocked shots on the night.

"The last game in Calgary, I started to really see the passing lanes and the seams," Pronger said. "I've kind of built on that. Today, I kind of started to do a little bit more and tried to get a little more offensively involved."

Calgary won the shootout 2-0 on goals by Dion Phaneuf and Chuck Kobasew -- the only two pucks Mike Morrison, looking to stick on the opening night roster, let by him. Morrison made 21 saves.

AROUND THE RINK ... Steve Staios (groin) did not play ... Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen (collarbone), Todd Harvey, Marty Reasoner, Radek Dvorak, Cory Cross and Igor Ulanov were the other veterans who didn't dress ... forward J.J. Hunter will see a surgeon today to determine if he'll have to go under the knife to have his dislocated right shoulder repaired ... the Flames, playing without Jarome Iginla, Tony Amonte and Daymond Langkow in the line-up, had just two shots in the second period ... the Oilers power play, grinding along at 5-for-46 coming in, went 2-for-12 on the night.


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