Flyers' Pronger to have surgery on right hand

Posted: March 15, 2011

SUNRISE, Fla. - In a stunning development, Chris Pronger, the leader of the Flyers defense, will have surgery Tuesday morning to repair a small fracture in his right hand and could miss the last 14 regular-season games.

General manager Paul Holmgren said Pronger would have a tiny screw inserted into a bone in his hand and would be sidelined for three to four weeks. He added that Pronger should be at 100 percent and ready for the playoffs, if not earlier.

The screw will expedite healing, Holmgren said.

"In three weeks, everybody thinks it's going to be more stable than it ever was," he said, "and it takes away the risk of reinjuring it."

Surgeon Tom Graham will operate on Pronger in Cleveland.

"Obviously, he's a big piece, but we can't use that as an excuse," center Danny Briere said. "We were without him earlier in the year, and we have to move forward."

After he hurt his hand last month, Pronger had tests, including an MRI exam, that did not show the fracture. But his hand continued to give him pain and he couldn't grip his stick. A CAT scan on Sunday revealed the fracture.

The scan showed "there's a little piece of bone that's broken away," Holmgren said.

Pronger, 36, originally injured the hand blocking a shot against the New York Islanders on Feb. 24. He missed one game, then returned to the lineup and played in four straight contests. Holmgren revealed that in the last of those games, Pronger may have further damaged his hand when he jammed it on the boards in a 4-1 win over Edmonton last Tuesday.

"Whether that made it worse, or maybe even caused the little break, we don't know," Holmgren said, adding that he didn't think Pronger returned to the lineup too soon after first hurting his hand.

After the game against Edmonton, Pronger shouted at teammate Claude Giroux because he was unhappy with the all-star center's play that night.

Pronger missed the last two games, a win over Toronto and an overtime loss to Atlanta.

Because of various injuries, Pronger has missed 18 games this season. The Flyers are 31-14-5 with Pronger this season, and 11-5-2 without him. He has 25 points in 50 games, has a plus-7 rating, and has averaged a team-high 22 minutes, 9 seconds of ice time per game.

Without Pronger, the Flyers' hold on first place in the Eastern Conference became a little shakier. Their lead in the East has been trimmed to one point by Washington, which has won eight straight. The Flyers, who have held the top spot since Jan. 8, have two games in hand on the Caps.

Pronger skated and did some stickhandling at Monday's practice in Sunrise, Fla., but he did not take any shots. His hand was too sore.

Holmgren hopes Pronger is able to resume skating this weekend, and that he can play a few games before the playoffs start. "We'll know more after [the surgery]," the general manager said.

The Flyers recalled defenseman Erik Gustafsson from Adirondack. He is expected to join the team in Florida, where the Flyers play the lowly Panthers on Tuesday night. Holmgren said Gustafsson probably wouldn't be available to play until Thursday in Atlanta - if coach Peter Laviolette decided to use him.

Nick Boynton, who has done well in Pronger's absence, will play his third straight game on Tuesday.

After a hard, crisp practice on Monday afternoon, the Flyers said they have already regrouped from their worst late-game collapse since 1987.

On Saturday, the Flyers lost for the first time in 24 years after carrying at least a three-goal lead into the third period, dropping a 5-4 overtime decision to visiting Atlanta.

"I'm over it. I'm past it. I'm looking forward to" Tuesday's game, Laviolette said after practice, adding that "every game is a separate identity. We've had days off and I think we're past it."

Winger Scott Hartnell used the word "devastating" to describe the defeat. The Flyers blew a 4-2 lead with less than three minutes left in regulation.

"It was one of those periods where you really don't know what happened," he said, referring to Atlanta's four-goal, third-period outburst. "But having two days off and coming to Florida may be a good thing, instead of playing the next night."

Putting that embarrassing defeat behind them, is "not that difficult," defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. "You need to have a short memory in this game, whether it's a big win or a big loss. Obviously, you don't want it to happen, but we have a game to worry about [Tuesday], so that's where our focus needs to be."


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.

 

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