Injured Chris Pronger: “The year from hell is over”

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Chris Pronger’s season didn’t go exactly how he had it planned out. The Flyers did win the Atlantic Division title, but they bowed out meekly in the playoffs in the second round to the Bruins. Taking that and all the injury problems Pronger had to put up with and it makes for one pretty grumpy defenseman.

With the Flyers packing up today for the summer and a long offseason of wondering what the future holds for them, Pronger was a primary focus of attention after he was forced to sit out the final three games of the series against Boston with what’s believed to be a back injury. For the 36 year-old defenseman, having so many different ailments nag at him is a point of personal contention.

CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio caught up with Pronger and he was straight-forward in talking about his bumps, bruises, and breaks that helped ruin both his and the Flyers season.

“The year from hell is over,” the Flyers defenseman said. “I started the season with a surgery and I’m going to end it probably, who knows, whether I get another one or not.”

Pronger underwent three surgeries, played just 50 regular season games, three playoff games, and could be facing a fourth surgery for a possible herniated disk, which shot pain down his leg.

“From an injury standpoint, it’s been the toughest year,” he said. “You start to get back and start feeling good, and another one crops up.

“Hopefully, a good summer of training and rehab on the various issues that I’ve had this year will rectify all those, and I can come into camp next year in a lot better shape, a lot healthier, and able to hopefully play 82 games next year.”

When next season begins Pronger will turn 37 and the Flyers had better hope that whatever work he gets done in the offseason pays off and he can play 82 games and the playoffs. After all, Pronger’s contract only goes through until the 2016-2017 season so making sure he can stay healthy well into his 40s would be a good thing.

Pronger’s situation is one the Flyers absolutely must allow him to get corrected. If he needs to get operated on, so be it, but without Pronger the Flyers are stuck in a bad way. Pronger missed the end of the regular season and parts of the Sabres playoff series thanks to a broken hand. Now with his back acting up, the team can’t help but be nervous even if Pronger isn’t.

More from Panaccio and Pronger about the concerns over his back.

“I don’t know if it’s to that point or not,” Pronger said of possible surgery. “I’ve got to see what the doctors see, what their recommendations are, and then weigh the pros and cons to whatever it is that we decide to do, and go from there.”

While the Flyers will have roster questions to get answered in the offseason, the worries for Pronger’s health are there as well and for good reason. How things go for him will point towards how the Flyers handle personnel since an injury nagged Pronger means having to keep the defense overstocked on the roster. There’s no doubting Pronger’s ability to play through pain and desire to get in the lineup at all times, but a Pronger at half-speed is no good to the team.

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Sutter won’t retire from coaching, willing to join a rebuild

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Given he turns 59 this summer, has won a pair of Stanley Cups and coached over 1,000 NHL games, Darryl Sutter probably could’ve called it a career after getting fired by the Kings earlier this month, and done so comfortably.

But that’s not happening.

In speaking with TSN’s Gary Lawless, Sutter said he has no plans to retire from coaching. What’s more — and, perhaps more interesting — is that Sutter said he wouldn’t limit his next job solely to a contending team.

Currently, there are just two vacant coaching gigs in Buffalo and Florida. We wrote about the Panthers’ search earlier today (more on that here). The situation in Buffalo is more complex, as the Sabres need to hire a new general manager and coach. Logic suggests the GM will be hired first, then spearhead the new bench boss hire.

In that regard, Buffalo is pretty intriguing.

Though the Kings have yet to be contacted for an interview request, ex-GM Dean Lombardi has been tied to the Sabres gig. And Lombardi, of course, is forever tied to Sutter — he was the one that hired Sutter after a five-year coaching exodus to join the Kings, and the pair went on to achieve great success together.

That five-year coaching exodus does need to be mentioned, though.

History suggests that Sutter isn’t joking when he says he’ll be picky about the situation and won’t rush to find the right fit. After being dismissed in Calgary in 2006, he returned to work on the family farm in Viking, Alberta and seemed fairly content doing so.

That said, hockey always seems to draw him back.

“The game has given us everything,” Sutter told Lawless. “We still have lots to give.”

Coyotes fire assistant coach Newell Brown

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The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with some personnel.

Assistant coach Newell Brown has been fired, along with Doug Soetaert, who was the general manager of their AHL affiliate in Tuscon.

Pro scouts David MacLean and Jim Roque won’t be back either. Their contracts will not be renewed.

“I’d like to thank Newell, Doug, David and Jim for their contributions to the club,” said GM John Chayka. “They are all good people but we believe these changes are necessary in order to improve our organization. We wish them the best in the future.”

A longtime NHL assistant coach, Brown is perhaps the most prominent of the four men. He joined the Coyotes in the summer of 2013 and received high praise for his work with their power play.

But Arizona’s power play slipped to 26th this past season, converting at a rate of just 16.2 percent.

As for Soetaert, he was only named GM of the Roadrunners last summer. The former NHL goalie had previously been a scout.

Plenty of seats available for tonight’s game in Ottawa

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The Ottawa Senators say they’re still expecting a full house, but Ticketmaster’s website shows plenty of available seats for tonight’s second-round opener with the New York Rangers.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Many of the available tickets for Thursday’s game were in the corners of the upper bowl, seats that carry a $96 price tag.

The Senators sold out all three games in the opening round of the playoffs against Boston. Game 1 drew a crowd of 18,702, while 18,629 showed up for Game 2 and 19,209 were in the seats for Game 5.

Attendance has been an issue in Ottawa — or, more specifically, suburban Kanata — all season, to the point owner Eugene Melnyk expressed great frustration with the lack of sellouts at Canadian Tire Centre.

Poor attendance also led to friction behind the scenes. At least, it sure sounded that way in the lawsuit that was filed against the team by its former chief marketing officer.

Poor attendance is why the Sens are trying to get a new downtown arena built. They believe that a more central location is the key to bigger crowds.

But regardless of the arena’s location, it won’t be a good look if there are empty seats tonight. This is the playoffs, and the Senators are one of eight remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. The building should be full.

Related: Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run