When Flyers clutch defenseman Chris Pronger went out of the lineup with a broken hand, many around Philadelphia started to stress a bit. Why wouldn’t they? The Flyers had cooled off to a point where they were in a slump and the Capitals, Bruins, and Penguins were all hot on their heels in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference after being distant from the lead for so long.
There’s no doubt that Pronger is the lynchpin to the Flyers defense and as he goes so does their ability to keep opponents off the scoreboard. No offense to veteran Nick Boynton and AHL call-up Erik Gustafsson, they’re just nowhere near the same kind of player.
With those guys set to fill in for Pronger in his absence, you can’t blame Pronger for wanting to get back before the start of the playoffs which is just what he’s trying to do as Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly finds out today. Being ready for the playoffs is his main priority and the ever quotable Pronger said as much.
Asked if he’d be 100 percent for the playoffs, “That’s the way it looks right now,” Pronger said. “[My doctor] is very happy with the way surgery went and the way everything looked when he went inside there to fix it …
“As far as we can tell [I’ll be ready], but none of us are Kreskin. We don’t really know what is going to happen.”
You can virtually see the disgust on Pronger’s face when addressing these questions, it’s fantastic. It’s also great news for the Flyers that he’s intent on getting back just before the start of the playoffs. With a targeted date of April 5 to get back, that would give him a handful of games in the regular season to get warmed up for the postseason.
As to who or even where they’ll end up in the first round is still up for debate. With the Capitals on fire and trying to catch them for the top spot and the Penguins right there threatening for the division lead, it’s possible they could end up the fourth seed and if Tampa Bay managed to get hot again, they could even end up fifth. It’s not likely that that could happen, but we’ve seen stranger things.
While the Flyers have been battling to stay on top of both the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division, their struggles just got a little harder today. The Flyers announced today that defensive stalwart Chris Pronger will miss the next 3-4 weeks of action after getting surgery to repair his broken hand. Helping Pronger get back as fast as 3-4 weeks will be made possible thanks to a screw being inserted into his hand. Just as we feared, Chris Pronger is more machine than he is man.
For Pronger to miss out on this much time essentially puts him out until the start of the playoffs. Getting the next few weeks off ideally gives Pronger the opportunity to recharge his batteries while dealing with an obnoxiously tricky injury. After all, your hand is pretty important in hockey and having it broken delays him being able to do hockey activities since holding your own stick is difficult.
What makes the timing of this injury tricky is the current place in the standings the Flyers find themselves in. The Capitals are streaking up the ladder while the Penguins have been on their heels the last couple weeks as the Flyers have gone from on fire all year to dealing with inconsistent play and, worst of all, losses. While the Flyers have been on top of the Eastern Conference all season, now they’re staring potentially a fourth or fifth seed possibility in the face. Going from having home ice throughout the East playoffs to not even having home ice in the first round is a possibility that didn’t seem likely just a few weeks ago.
Taking Pronger’s spot in the starting lineup will likely be recently acquired Nick Boynton. Boyton’s a steady defensive-minded guy on the blue line but certainly not in the same class as Pronger. Erik Gustafsson will be called up from the AHL to help fill out the roster. The Flyers have had it relatively simple for most of the year but getting this brand of test before the playoffs will be a character builder for the team. Getting the reward of having Pronger return for the first round of the playoffs would provide the kind of boost the team will need to get through the NHL postseason.
As the schedule winds down and the pressure picks up, any injury has a huge effect on how things go. The Flyers losing Chris Pronger for tonight’s game against Toronto will be even tougher to overcome.
According to CSNPhilly’s Tim Panaccio, Pronger will be out of tonight’s game with a hand injury. Taking Pronger’s spot in the lineup will be recent acquisition Nick Boynton. Boynton plays a physical brand of hockey as well, but he’s no Pronger.
Philadelphia recently snapped a four game losing streak with a win over Edmonton on Tuesday night, but dealing with a Maple Leafs team that’s been a lot better of late will be a different sort of animal to handle. Doing so without Pronger gives guys like Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski a bit more room on the ice to find their way to the net.
Injuries are all part of the game, obviously, but this one comes at a rough time for Philly as their lead in the Eastern Conference is down to just two points over the Washington Capitals and their lead in the Atlantic Division is just two over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It doesn’t sound as if Pronger’s injury is too serious, but every point makes a big difference down the stretch.