"Perhaps now I may not block as many shots. I just may get out of the way and let our million-dollar goalie stop those things."
Despite the friendly back-and-forth with reporters, one startling fact emerged from yesterday's medical update: Pronger says he has not lifted a single weight in 6 months.
That's an abnormal length of time for most in-shape 36-year-olds of the general public - let alone a championship-caliber athlete with 6 years and nearly $27 million left on his contract with the Flyers.
Since the Flyers were swept by Boston in the second round of the Stanley Cup finals on May 6, Pronger has undergone two surgeries: one to repair a herniated disk in his lower back and another to mend a hand that was cracked by blocking a shot.
According to Pronger, it is his hand - and not his back - that has limited his offseason routine to only cardiovascular exercises. For now, his daily routine includes stretching, 10 minutes on the treadmill and 30 to 40 minutes riding a stationary bike. He hopes to be cleared to resume lifting in a little more than a week.
"Strength, for my position and the way I play, is critical," he said. "So I've got to gain my strength back before I start skating."
For Pronger, who turns 37 in October, the Sept. 15 opening of training camp and an Oct. 6 season-opening date with the defending champ Bruins in Beantown is not the finish line fueling his return. He wants to come back fully healthy.
"I'm not going to speed up the process one bit; it's going to go how it goes," he said. "You have to use your time wisely. I'd like to think that taking that much time off will allow me to fully heal up and recover and be able to play another 82-game season."
After a 1-year stint with the Flyers, winger Nik Zherdev will return to Russia next season. Last week, he signed a 1-year deal with his former team, Atlant Moscow, where he will team up with Alexei Kovalev. Zherdev, 26, posted 16 goals and six assists in 56 games with the Flyers last season . . . Dan Carcillo, whom the Flyers turned loose as a free agent on July 1, was formally introduced as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks yesterday.
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read blog, Frequent Flyers, at www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers.