Pronger, healing after surgery, touts Flyers' defensive depth

Posted: September 20, 2010

Chris Pronger won't lie.

Even having been around the block - through the grinding skates, grueling workouts and gritty battles - each September since 1993, Pronger would rather be on the ice.

"While it is sometimes nice to miss parts of camp," Pronger said with a wink, "I don't think missing all of it is to anyone's best interest.

"Sometimes, it's good [to be in training camp]. You get out with the guys and start building that bond again . . . You've been off the ice for 3 months. So just getting back out there with the guys will be exciting."

For now, the best he can do is hit the gym with his teammates in an attempt to strengthen his knee after undergoing surgery on July 27 to remove loose bodies. The normal recovery time for a minor arthroscopic procedure like that is 2 to 3 weeks.

Pronger just began skating earlier this week - his first time since the Flyers lost in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals on June 9.

"I've been on [the ice] 5 days now and every day it feels a little bit better," he said.

Pronger skated early yesterday morning, before his teammates took the ice, with fellow injured players Ville Leino and Kevin Marshall - who are both recovering from hip surgeries.

He has continued to be questioned about having the procedure done so late in the offseason, less than a month and a half before training camp.

"I wanted to see if it could heal itself," Pronger said. "It didn't get much better - or any better at all. Ultimately, we found some things in [an] MRI and I had surgery the next week. I don't know if I could have sped up the process at all."

During the offseason, Pronger advocated for more depth on defense. He helped convince former partner Sean O'Donnell to join the team via free agency. Paul Holmgren also acquired Matt Walker and Andrej Meszaros in two separate deals with Tampa Bay.

Pronger said this will be one of the deepest defensive units he's played with in 16 NHL seasons.

"I think with the depth that we have, we'll be rolling three sets pretty much all year," Pronger said. "That will obviously cut down on Kimmo's [Timonen] minutes, obviously the top four, which will hopefully allow us to be more fresh at the end of the year."

And maybe, without a wink, it would be in Pronger's best interest to skip the preseason. Last September, Pronger averaged 26 minutes, 42 seconds in ice-time over five games. In two of them, he played more than 29 minutes - with results so meaningless they can be hard to find on the Internet.

Pronger admitted that losing to Chicago reminded him of how bitter he felt about losing in the Cup finals to Laviolette's Hurricanes in 2006. He won the next year after pairing up with O'Donnell in Anaheim.

Pronger has had 3 months to digest the heartbreak. But there is still healing to be done.

Slap shots

Despite the puck dropping in the Flyers' first preseason game tomorrow night against New Jersey, the veterans still have not participated in a full-team scrimmage. Two groups of rookies skated yesterday . . . Coach Peter Laviolette, who said he is pleased with the conditioning level of his team, will need to dress a minimum of eight veterans in each exhibition game . . . To ramp up the conditioning level, Laviolette said he will slowly lengthen the time on-ice each day during training camp . . . Comcast SportsNet taped its "Meet the Flyers" show yesterday in front of a live audience at the Skate Zone. Every member of the team - including veteran Bill Guerin, in camp on a tryout - participated except Scott Hartnell. The show will first air on CSN on Thursday at 9 p.m.

Quick side

Daily News hockey writer Frank Seravalli was a guest judge for the Flyers' P.C. Richards and Sons Ice Girls tryouts on Saturday. More than 40 women went through rigorous on-ice drills and off-ice interviews to determine the 2010-11 team. Congratulations to Caitlin Quirk, Asmaa Sabour, Rachel Miller, Chelsey Turner, Jessica Myers, Kimberly Webb, Kelly Coffman and Rachael Masse for making the squad.

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