Flyers call up Gustafsson in case Pronger still cannot play

Chris Pronger: how hurt?
Chris Pronger: how hurt?
Posted: February 26, 2011

CHRIS PRONGER woke up yesterday with a swollen hand and wrist - sending shivers down the spine of every Flyers alarmist in the Philadelphia region.

And only a few days after Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he wasn't interested in calling up a player from the Adirondack Phantoms unless he was absolutely needed, rookie Erik Gustafsson's summoning from Glens Falls, N.Y., added to the fears.

Was Pronger's initial diagnosis, after negative X-rays - that he was probable for tonight's game in Ottawa - a bit premature?

Pronger was held out of practice yesterday and rechecked by a hand specialist before accompanying his teammates on the team's charter flight to Canada's capital city. That precaution could continue tonight in Ottawa, as Pronger's status has gone from probable to questionable.

"His hand is a little bit swollen," Holmgren said. "Whether Chris can play or not is too soon to tell. We'll have a better idea [today]."

Holmgren said Pronger had trouble gripping his stick, which was the same reason that kept him from returning against the Islanders on Thursday night. Holmgren also said he did not think Pronger required an MRI exam for further investigation.

Gustafsson, 22, was recalled for the second time this season. He spent 5 days with the Flyers around New Year's on a West Coast road trip, but did not play in any games. Gustafsson, out of Northern Michigan University, is tied for the Phantoms' lead in scoring with 33 points.

It makes sense for the Flyers to give Pronger tonight off, because the Senators are dead last in the Eastern Conference, and these teams combined for 126 penalty minutes and five fights in their last meeting on Jan. 20.

Plus, sitting Pronger - with the Flyers' next game not until Thursday - would give Gustafsson his NHL debut. While Pronger is an "important piece of the puzzle," as Laviolette said, the lessons Gustafsson gains now could prove very valuable if he is called upon in the playoffs.

"He's had a good year down there," Laviolette said. "He moves the puck well. He'll definitely be part of our pregame scout [meeting]. We'll see what happens."

The 'Come to Lavi' chat

Peter Laviolette and Paul Holmgren sat down with freshly waived forward Nik Zherdev yesterday morning before practice to reiterate their expectations and requests for the remainder of the season.

Despite his 15 goals, Zherdev has been openly criticized for his lack of preparation and work ethic at practice - and, at times, during games. Zherdev said he now knows what he was doing wrong.

"We talked about things," Holmgren said. "I think he does want to be here. As you know, he's not the most vocal or outspoken person. But the ball's in his court now."

By clearing Zherdev through waivers - at his request- the Flyers now have the option to send him to the AHL at any time. He also is available to play in the NHL now. The Flyers have 30 days, or 10 games, whichever comes first, to send him down without having to start the process over again. If Zherdev remains with the Flyers, no further move needs to be made.

Zherdev said he would even report to the Phantoms in Adirondack if assigned.

"Things like that happen," Laviolette said. "I think it's important to just start over again fresh and move past it. He is a talented player who can help our team. Today was a good day."

Slap shots

Goaltender Brian Boucher will start in Ottawa tonight . . . Forward Blair Betts (lacerated finger) did not make the trip to Ottawa . . . Defenseman Sean O'Donnell estimated that the Flyers have played to about 80 percent of their abilities over the last 3 weeks, though they are still 17-5-1 since Jan. 1 and 7-3-1 in February . . . Tomorrow's 34th annual Flyers Wives Fight For Lives Carnival at the Wells Fargo Center will be broadcast from 2-4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet. The carnival has raised more than $23 million in its first 33 years. Tickets are still available on ComcastTix.com. The carnival runs from 1:30 to 6 p.m. *

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