CHRIS PRONGER isn't shy.
Known as an in-your-face player, Pronger may be in your face in other ways soon. He will be featured in an upcoming Pepsi Max advertisement with Mike Richards in Maxim magazine.
This week, Pronger was featured in a different magazine. His face was plastered on the cover of the The Hockey News' Nov. 16 issue, which focuses on the NHL's best defensemen.
In the cover story, the News' panel of experts selected Pronger as the league's No. 1 "nastiest and most intimidating" defenseman, edging out Calgary's Dion Phaneuf. But that wasn't the only category that Pronger won. He also was listed as the "best corner man," for winning puck battles along the boards. Pronger also figured in the discussion for "best shutdown defender," "best first passer," and honorable mention for "best point shot."
On "Daily News Live" on Comcast SportsNet, Pronger said he takes pride in being part of those rankings.
So far, Pronger has lived up to the hefty billing that accompanied his arrival from Anaheim in an offseason trade. Pronger has a plus-12 rating in 15 games and paces the Flyers in blocked shots (42) while playing a league-high 27:37 per game. He also has provided an offensive spark. Last night, Pronger contributed another assist and is second in team scoring with 16 points in 15 games.
Also in the rankings were Braydon Coburn (honorable mention for best skating defenseman) and Kimmo Timonen (best small defenseman).
Laliberte out of lineup
With Danny Briere (quad) and James van Riemsdyk (broken and cut pinkie finger) ready to play last night, surprising call-up David Laliberte was left to watch the game from the press box.
Coach John Stevens said at practice this week that Laliberte did not pose a threat to steal a spot from one of the regular forwards, despite posting three points in four games.
"For me to be here, I'm really proud," said Laliberte, a fourth-round draft choice in 2004. "I've just tried to keep working out and improve . . . When you play your first game, you don't know what to expect. Everything happened so quick. Now that I know that Briere is back, I've just tried to work hard. We'll see.
"I think I played three good games out of four and I wanted to make it hard for them [to send me down]."
For now, Laliberte will remain with the big club as an extra forward. He holds the 23rd and final roster spot, the maximum allowed by the NHL. It looks like he will remain in that spot for the time being, with Simon Gagne on the long-term injured reserve list.
Meanwhile, defenseman Oskars Bartulis made his NHL debut in place of Ryan Parent (groin) and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (concussion). Stevens is hoping that both players are ready to return for tomorrow night's game against Buffalo. Bartulis, a third-round pick in 2005, is the first player from Latvia to ever dress for the Flyers. In last night's 5-1 win over the Senators, Bartulis was a plus-1 in 17:18. He posted four points in 12 games with the Phantoms before being called up.
Stevens praised Bartulis during training camp for moving himself up the depth chart.
"He is one of those guys that you don't notice him, but he's playing well," Stevens said. "He's a steady defender. It seems like he's never in trouble and he quietly goes about his business. You take for granted some of the things he does well but those are the things that make him a good player."
When Parent - who is listed on the injured reserve - is ready to return, Bartulis will be sent back to Adirondack.
After practice today, Claude Giroux will autograph a limited number of hockey sticks to be sold as part of the Flyers' annual Santa Sacks. The popular holiday gift packages - which include two tickets preloaded with a $10 food/merchandise credit, a pictorial yearbook and maybe even a Giroux stick - are available for select games at prices ranging from $79 to $199.
The Flyers also are encouraging fans to donate "Treats for Troops," which go to members of the armed forces overseas as holiday care packages. For more information and donation suggestions, go to philadelphiaflyers.com.
The Flyers played a moving video tribute to members - past and present - of the armed forces before last night's game, in honor of Veterans Day . . . Ray Emery wasn't the only one playing against his former team. Former Flyer Alexandre Picard, who holds the obscure team record for most assists by a defenseman in a game (5), skated for Ottawa . . . Flyers fans consumed 10,050 soft pretzels last night during dollar pretzel night . . . Three different lights blew out in the rafters in the first period, causing a loud boom, sparks and smoke each time . . . Ian Laperriere was dropped by Ottawa's Matt Carkner in a second-period fight . . . John Stevens would not speculate pregame, but there is a chance that Brian Boucher will make his second start of the season in goal tomorrow against Buffalo.