Flyers' Pronger to have hand surgery but expected back for playoffs

Defenseman Chris Pronger is to undergo surgery today to repair a small fracture in his right hand.
Defenseman Chris Pronger is to undergo surgery today to repair a small fracture in his right hand.
Posted: March 15, 2011

SUNRISE, Fla. - Nobody knows Chris Pronger's body like Chris Pronger.

And Pronger, holding himself out of the last two games because of a right-hand injury sustained on Feb. 24 when he blocked a shot against the Islanders, knew there was something wrong. Something that an MRI and multiple X-rays did not show.

His intuition was spot on.

Pronger will undergo surgery this morning in Cleveland by noted hand specialist Dr. Tom Graham to repair a small fracture found in a CT scan on Sunday.

Pronger, 36, is expected to miss 3 to 4 weeks, but Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he expects the lumbering defenseman to be ready for the start of the playoffs on April 12.

"Right now, we think 3 or 4 weeks, we're in the right time frame there,'' Holmgren said. "Based on the information we're getting from doctors, and what they think is going to take place during the surgery, that time frame is accurate.''

The good news is that Pronger will be able to begin skating again soon. In fact, he took part in practice yesterday afternoon - skating and stickhandling but not shooting - at the Bank Atlantic Center in preparation for tonight's game against the Panthers, as he had all last week.

Pronger sat out one game, on Feb. 26, and returned to play in three straight games before banging his hand against Edmonton last Tuesday. Holmgren said Pronger jammed it along the boards, but wasn't sure whether that was related to this injury.

"Nothing showed up on the X-rays, nothing really showed up on the MRI, but for peace of mind, we got this CT scan done,'' Holmgren said. "And lo and behold, there's this little piece of bone that's broken away."

Since the injury doesn't affect his lower body, Pronger could begin skating again as soon as next weekend, according to Holmgren, to maintain skating shape.

In the meantime, Holmgren said the Flyers will recall defenseman Erik Gustafsson from Adirondack today. While Gustafsson would be available to play tonight if needed, he is expected to remain as the seventh defenseman behind Nick Boynton.

Holmgren didn't want the Flyers to be scrambling "a couple thousand miles away'' in case of injury as their road trip continues to Atlanta on Thursday and Dallas on Saturday.

Gustafsson, 22, made his NHL debut on Feb. 26 when Pronger missed a game. The Flyers chose Gustafsson over defenseman Danny Syvret, despite his 10 points in the Phantoms' last seven games and 54 games more NHL experience.

Given the Flyers' recent struggles, it's hard to view Pronger's latest setback in a positive light. If the injury was discovered 2 weeks ago, when it occurred, he might have been able to return for the last week or 2 of the regular season.

Even so, this strengthening surgery may pay dividends down the line.

"I think he'll be 100 percent,'' Holmgren said. "The reason they want to put the screw in is to make it more stable. Given the time frame of recovery, everybody thinks it's going to be more stable than it ever was - and it takes away the risk of reinjuring it.''

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