Edmonton Oilers v Philadelphia Flyers

Pronger misses second straight game, now wearing cast

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The Flyers say Chris Pronger’s injury is nothing serious. They won last game against Edmonton. But whenever a superstar defenseman shows up in the GM’s box for the first time all season and is wearing a soft cast to protect his hand, it’s going to raise some eyebrows.  Whenever a team gives up 4 goals (and a 3 goal lead) in the 3rd period, AND lose in overtime, a few more eyebrows will be raised.

Holmgren and the Flyers held their own version of Meet The Press on Saturday to explain the situation in more detail. They’ve said since he missed Thursday’s game against the Oilers that he was day-to-day. They say he should be good to go against the Panthers on Tuesday night; but it’s now been almost three weeks since the February 24th game against the Islanders when a Ty Wishart shot made contact with Pronger’s hand.

For the record, GM Paul Holmgren doesn’t sound overly concerned:

“It’s to facilitate the healing and make it more comfortable,” Holmgren said. “He’s the same as yesterday: day-to-day. … He’s gotten better the last few days by not taking part in anything with a puck.”

Here’s the bottom line: the most irreplaceable player for the best team in the Eastern Conference has questions about his health. They have more centers than they know what to do with and have three lines that would make any GM in the league happy. The defense has six capable defensemen to spread the minutes out. But if they take Pronger out of the line-up, the team goes from “elite Cup contender” to “good playoff team.”

The Flyers took measures at the trade deadline to add depth as an insurance policy in case one of their top 6 went down—but Nick Boynton is never going to be Chris Pronger. And thankfully for Boynton, they will never ask him to be the minute eating, penalty killing machine that they depend on Pronger to be on a nightly basis.

Hopefully for Flyers fans, Pronger is back on Tuesday and ready to make a final push for the Presidents’ Trophy without any lingering effects.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.