Chris Pronger

Chris Pronger expects to play a full season in 2011-12

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It’s easy to dislike Chris Pronger considering his tendency to bend or even break the rules, but you have to give him his due. When Pronger plays in front of a netminder, they often enjoy a mysterious ascent; a mediocre goalie starts to look good and a good goalie might even seem great.

Of course, for him to make that impact, Pronger actually needs to be on the ice. That was a pretty big problem during an injury-ravaged 2010-11 season he referred to as “the year from hell.”

There’s more than a little worry that Pronger’s current contract might be a deal with the devil for the Philadelphia Flyers, but the more immediate concern revolves around his rehab from back surgery and problems with an injured hand. A recent post revealed that Pronger is “progressing nicely” but could miss the beginning of Flyers training camp. The bigger question for the Flyers is whether or not he could play when the games start to count, though. The latest reports indicate that Pronger thinks he’ll play a full 2011-12 season, although much of the evidence about his training regimen make that hard to believe.

CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio caught up with Pronger, who reportedly hasn’t lifted a heavy weight in six months and is about two months behind where he would normally be when it comes to strength training. Although he had surgery for a herniated disk in his back this summer, Panaccio reports that his biggest issues have been with that injured hand.

Pronger said his right hand is holding him back from resumption of a full workout schedule. The hand surgery came last March.

He estimated that his hand is 80 to 85 percent healed. The screws have been removed and subsequent holes need to be filled in. Pronger won’t be permitted to begin heavy weight training for about another week, he estimated.

While Pronger is the aggressor far more often than he’s not, his bruising and unforgiving style – not to mention the accrued hockey mileage from all those long playoff runs – might be catching up to him at 36 years old. The towering defenseman brushed off the talk of his body “breaking down,” though.

“I don’t know if you could say I was breaking down with broken bones and being hit by pucks and all the rest of that,” Pronger said. “Those are things that can sometimes be avoided. Perhaps now I may not block as many shots. I might just get out of the way and let our million dollar goaltender [Ilya Bryzgalov] stop those things.”

Pressed further about his durability, he replied, “If I’m going off last year, I guess I’d call myself a Band-Aid. But I’ve got many other years where I’d say I wasn’t a Band-Aid. Sometimes you just have years where things don’t go your way.

When it comes to injuries, players generally exprience more years that don’t go their way once they get older. Barring a new loophole from a future Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Flyers are on the hook for his near-$5 million annual salary cap hit through the 2016-17 season whether Pronger keeps playing or retires altogether. They better hope that his “Band-Aid” years are few and far between, beginning with the pivotal 2011-12 season.

It’s hard to imagine Pronger being 100 percent healthy next season, but we’ll keep you updated regarding the big blueliner’s attempt to back up his hopeful claims that he’ll play all 82 games next season.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.