Mar 31, 2011, 11:37 PM EDT
Just the other day, a friend asked me to handicap the Eastern Conference playoff race, but I couldn’t help but hesitate. Sure, the Boston Bruins are looking intermittently big and bad. The Washington Capitals are really heating up in the second half of the season, too. Yet it will be difficult to gauge the field until it is clear if the Philadelphia Flyers will have a healthy Chris Pronger in their lineup.
When he’s even hovering around 100 percent, Pronger’s intelligence and intimidating presence makes him the kind of difference maker who transforms a mediocre goalie into a good one and a good netminder into a borderline star. The Flyers were hoping to give their big, bruising blueliner a chance to shake off some rust by playing the final game or two of the season, but that probably isn’t in the cards anymore.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren admits that Pronger’s rehab might have been pushed a little too quickly, telling CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio that he won’t return during the regular season. While that is tough news to take, Panaccio reports that sources in Holmgren and Pronger’s camps also shot down rumors that the elite defenseman underwent “some sort of new medical procedure” on his hand, so it wasn’t all bad news today.
Holmgren denied rumors that Pronger had some sort of new medical procedure on his hand when the Flyers were in Pittsburgh earlier this week. Sources close to Pronger say they are not aware of such, either.
“No, he did not,” Holmgren told CSNPhilly.com.
Holmgren said that Pronger, who was taking hard shots this week and last, “probably pushed it a little bit too quickly on the rehab.”
“Chris wants to play,” Holmgren said. “Maybe we got the cart a little bit ahead of the horse there.”
Some Flyers fans worry about all the mileage Pronger has accumulated over the last several seasons, especially since his current contract is a 35+ deal that won’t expire until after the 2016-17 season.
After playing all 82 games the last two seasons, he’s been limited to 50 games in 2010-11. He’s also seeing less ice time lately, averaging only 22:30 minutes per game after averaging between 26 and 30 minutes per game for most of his stellar career.
No doubt about it, Pronger is one of the biggest game-changers in the league – defensively or otherwise – when he is healthy. It looks like that will be a big “if” though. We’ll keep you updated about his condition as the playoffs rapidly approach.
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