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June 2, 2006

Chris Pronger

Ryan Smyth

THE MODERATOR: Thanks to Chris Pronger and Ryan Smyth for taking 20 minutes today to speak to you via conference call. And just before we open it up to questions, I'd like to advise the media we have some schedule information vis-a-vis Sunday. The Carolina Hurricanes media availability will be at 1 PM Sunday at the Marriott crab tree hotel and the Oilers will be available at 3 PM at the same Marriott Crabtree Hotel. So again congratulations to Chris and Ryan, and thanks to JJ for helping to set this up.
Q. For Chris, just wondering, when you left the Whalers, did you ever envision going up against them in the Finals series like this, and how long ago does that team so you now?
CHRIS PRONGER: Actually that was quite a while ago, 11 years ago. You know what, since they have moved to Carolina, obviously they have gone to the Finals once since then. No, I don't think you ever envision that happening. But, you know, it's how ironic things turn out. It will be an exciting series for the fans to watch.
Q. My question is for Captain Canada. Ryan, wondering if you can talk about the irony of Doug finally getting to a final, and all the years playing in Edmonton, the payroll restrictions, he's finally there, but he has to face the Oilers.
RYAN SMYTH: Yeah, obviously a lot of respect for Douggie. Played with him for six or seven years, and he's a great team guy, great leader. But obviously, this is a lot more important. He's moved on now and I'm happy for him, but in the same respects, we have to make sure we finish it off here.
Q. Just as a follow for Chris, you guys had some very good teams in St. Louis that obviously seem like you were maybe just a player or two when you and MacInnis were anchoring the Blue line. If someone told you four or five years ago you would not reach a final until you went to Edmonton, would you have believed that?
CHRIS PRONGER: Probably not. But at the same time, you know, it's always easy to look back in hindsight, coulda, shoulda, woulda. We've got the opportunity now and certainly we're not going to look back or look too far ahead. We've got to focus on this series and make sure that we continue to play well.
Having a layoff and trying to -- people are trying to already blame things on that, you know, that's immaterial. We've got to stay focused and concentrate on the task at hand and now that we know who our opponent; we have to prepare for Carolina and make sure that we're ready for Game 1 on Monday.
Q. Following up on the St. Louis thing, would it be fair to say that when you went to St. Louis near the end of season and lost to a team that had lost a bunch in a row, that was the moment for you guys and to build up from that point to where you are right now?
CHRIS PRONGER: Yeah, I'd like to think so. At the same time, I think that was probably our worst game of that stretch, and certainly, didn't respond very well to, you know, the situation that we were in; needing that win, and obviously trying to get into the playoffs from there.
But, you know, we had a lot better third period but again it was obviously too late and kind of summed up our whole season and kind of playing down to our competition of the teams that were weaker in their conference, and then playing up through the teams in our conference that were above us and playing well against those teams. Hopefully this is another one of those cases with Carolina that we can rise to the challenge and play well.
Q. Have you been watching the Hurricanes, by the way? Obviously you've had some time off, and if you have, what do you see sort of the primary obstacles being for you guys to win it all?
RYAN SMYTH: Well, they obviously move the puck very well and they have a lot of depth up front and on the back end. Whether they play Gerber or Ward, both of those goalies have proven in the past that they are capable of leading their teams to win. Certainly I don't think anybody here is looking past them and celebrating. It's going to be a heck of a challenge for us to try to beat that team, and you know, hopefully we're prepared and ready to go. We've obviously had enough time to prepare for them.
Q. You guys have played in the West for so long, I don't know how much you saw Sergei Samsonov before you got him, curious what you think of him, and what has he added to the team?
RYAN SMYTH: Well, it's kind of ironic that he's playing against the guy he got traded for essential any in Glen Wesley as part of three first round picks when I was with the Whalers and we signed Wesley out of Boston.
You know what, Sami has been unbelievable with us, and certainly not playing them as often as the teams in the East, a skilled guy who can really control the play and handle the puck, makes great plays on the ice. Just what Prong said there, he's a shifty player, he creates a lot for his other two forwards. You know, he's tough to handle down low. Once you have a player like that, it adds so much depth up front and it should be an asset for your hockey team.
Q. Did you know that much about him before you got him?
RYAN SMYTH: Not a tremendous amount. Obviously knew he played with Joe Thornton and racked up a few points that way. But, you know, he created a lot for Joe, too.
Q. Chris, you spent your career with St. Louis and they can spend whatever they want. Ryan, you've been with Edmonton and been through the lean years there. Just wondering how much you guys see this new C.B.A. helping you and Edmonton in terms of being successful this year?
RYAN SMYTH: Well, I think obviously the lockout really benefitted the smaller market teams so to speak. Obviously acquiring guys like Chris Pronger and Michael Peca and having the capability of getting a guy like Roli on deadline, and Sergei, for that matter, gives us that, I guess, level -- even-level playing field and makes it that much more of a challenge for us to compete.
Once you get that opportunity to compete, you never know, anything can happen. Obviously we've made it this far, but we've still got a long ways to go yet.
Q. Also wanted to ask Chris, you know, you sort of took the leap of faith to go and go long-term with the Oilers, and I'm wondering if he ever thought it would pan out this way?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I don't think you ever know. You know, hockey is one of those sports, it's pretty tough to pick a team and expecting to go to the Cup Finals, and certainly not in your first year.
I knew coming into Edmonton that we had a good group of young players that were on their way up in developing, had a lot of potential, and certainly had a good core of veteran guys here with a good presence and really just wanted to add to that and complement that. All season long, we've slowly been building towards this, and, you know, it's been a fun year to say the least. A little inconsistent at times, but I think through those different adversities that you face through the course of a season, you learn a lot about yourself and your teammates. And we've been able to fight back and battle through a lot of those and learn a lot about ourselves. Certainly I think that's something that has helped us throughout the course of this playoffs.
Q. Wondering if Ryan could talk about Dwayne Roloson and the job he's done in the playoffs, and if Chris could talk about the City of Edmonton for somebody who has never been there, just explain what type of place it is.
RYAN SMYTH: Well, I think it's tough for any player, making the transition and feeling comfortable right away. I think that was -- from the get-go when Roli got to Edmonton, he knew he was coming into a difficult situation and the fact that he was going to be playing all the time. He stepped up to the challenge. I think he wanted to start out a little bit better, but as time went on, he felt more comfortable being in the net and comfortable being around the guys. And I think we tried to make him feel really welcome, and you know, obviously self explanatory for the rest of the playoffs. He's played unbelievable for us.
CHRIS PRONGER: I think anybody going into Edmonton, you're going to see a city who is hockey crazy and really excited about the Oilers, and certainly, you know, our fans in my estimation are the loudest in the league. They have been crazy all playoffs and they have been a big part of this playoff run we've had, and certainly anybody coming in for these games will understand what I'm talking about, how the building and the energy and the excitement around Edmonton is around the Oilers right now. It's a lot of fun to be a part of that.
Q. Chris, you guys just finished off a very speedy team in the Ducks, and Carolina is going to be more of the same. Can you just talk a little bit how you plan on containing that kind of speed?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think the biggest thing for us is going to be gap control on the back end. They have a lot of forwards up fronts that are skilled and fast. You know, we've got to keep a tight gap and make sure we're eliminating their time and space so they can't get their engine revved up and get going and use that speed. It's one of those things that, you know, a lot of times, that gets overlooked in a series like this where it's back and forth. And, you know, we want to make it into a crash-and-bang series and get the puck in deep and make sure we're playing aggressive and physical.
You know, it's going to be a challenge, though, because they move the puck so well and they have got a good group of guys back on the back end.
Q. My question was kind of a follow-up on the C.B.A. question, demoralizing was it for you in the old economic system to watch the Oilers have to continually really be forced into salary dumps?
RYAN SMYTH: Well, it was a tough situation competing against teams that were really stacked. That's where you get character guys and character players, and actually, some of them that went through it, like Ethan Moreau, Rem Murray, Jason Smith and myself, you find ways to overcome those, and I think you better yourself as individuals and as your team.
You know, we had some good battles. Obviously we got by Dallas one year in the playoffs. We got by Colorado in the playoffs, and you experience different things along the way. But, you know, like I said, it's more a level playing field right now, and I think for the City of Edmonton itself and the organization, it has benefitted us, and hopefully it will down the road, too.
Q. There were so many teams, at least a few that said they really couldn't survive in the old economic system and the lockout happened and they came back and didn't make any moves. For them to go out and get Peca and go get Chris, how proud were you of the team to at least kind of put their money where their mouth was?
RYAN SMYTH: Yeah, obviously I think the Oilers were a huge input as far as the lockouts was talked about. Once it happened, you knew that we were going to do something. Obviously in the end result, we got two great players. You look at the four remaining teams that were there, Anaheim, Buffalo, Carolina and ourselves, not the most marketed places, and we're in the Finals now.
So that's a huge turnaround I guess for the lockout itself, and you know, like I said, hopefully it just balances out the League across the board and gives us that much extra life around the NHL market.
Q. Wondering what you guys have been up to the last couple of days, I was hearing some old Oilers stories in the 80s when Grant Fuhr used to golf 36 holes a day. What have you guys been doing to remain active?
CHRIS PRONGER: You know what, Mackie has been putting us through a mini-training camp. Haven't had too much energy left to go golfing. You know what just trying to relax and recharge your batteries and make sure we're ready roll and stay focused and prepare for whoever it's going to be, whether it's Buffalo or Carolina. Now that we've figured that situation out, start preparing for Carolina and make sure that's no leaf unturned in looking at different scenarios and situation that is may come up during the course of a game. Really, just, you know, start focusing and bearing in on getting four more wins.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, guys.

End of FastScripts...

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