Chris Pronger

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.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.