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Pacific
Yi-Wen Yen
October 02, 2006
Anaheim Ducks
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October 02, 2006

Pacific

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Anaheim Ducks

LAST SEASON 43-27-12, sixth in West; lost in conference finals to Edmonton

KEY ADDITIONS D Chris Pronger

KEY LOSSES RW Joffrey Lupul, D Ruslan Salei, D Vitaly Vishnevski

Life in the O.C. got even sunnier in July when superstar defenseman Chris Pronger was acquired in a trade with Edmonton that unites him with another Norris Trophy winner, Scott Niedermayer. (Pronger won it in 2000, Niedermayer in '04.) The Ducks, who play an aggressive, high-tempo game, will have at least one of those elite blueliners on the ice virtually all the time--and that immediately makes them a Stanley Cup favorite.

"Scottie's like a thoroughbred; Chris is like a Clydesdale," says G.M. Brian Burke. "In terms of skating the puck out of trouble, Scottie has a clear advantage. [And] he's such a smooth passer. Chris is more physical and uses his stick more to beat people with a pass. They'll complement each other well."

In exchange for the 6'6", 215-pound Pronger, who is in the second year of a five-year, $31 million deal, Anaheim gave up promising forward Joffrey Lupul, defenseman Ladislav Smid, a 2007 first-round pick, a 2008 second-round pick and a conditional first-round pick. But the Ducks, who have top scorers Teemu Selanne (40 goals) and Andy McDonald (34) coming back, have the depth to overcome those losses. More important, after watching the Pronger-led Oilers dominate his Ducks in the conference finals, Burke was convinced Pronger was the missing piece on his team.

"I was wishing I had Chris when I saw him warming up for the first game [of the series]," Burke says. "I've been coveting this player ever since I drafted him [for the Hartford Whalers] in 1993."

By adding Pronger to his current team, Burke now has everything in place for the Ducks to win the Cup.

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