Captain Chris Pronger keys Flyers' 2-1 win over Devils

Posted: September 30, 2011

After a four-surgery season he called "the year from hell," new captain Chris Pronger was in the Flyers lineup Thursday for the first time in the preseason.

Pronger found his rhythm after looking a bit rusty in the opening period. The 6-foot-6 defenseman helped set up the Flyers' two power-play goals in a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center.

"I thought I did OK," Pronger said. "The first period was pretty fast, and it was a good way to kind of get back in the flow."

Pronger played 19 minutes, 35 seconds; blocked two shots; and directed the power play. He was credited with one assist, though he had a hand in both goals.

"You can only practice so much and try to prepare that way, but there's nothing like some good, old-fashioned, live-action hockey," Pronger said before the opening faceoff. "You can't simulate that."

"There's something to be said for coming back and finding your timing," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He looked good."

Pronger, who will turn 37 next month, was paired with his old defensive partner, Matt Carle. Pronger hadn't played since an April 30 postseason game; he had back surgery on May 13.

Apparently, Pronger won't play in the final exhibition game, Saturday in New Jersey.

"Put it on my headstone that I won't go to Newark for a preseason game," he said with a smile.

After months of rehabilitation, Pronger was used in all situations and seemed set to play the season opener Thursday in Boston, where the Bruins will raise their Stanley Cup banner before the game.

"Trust me - it's not easy to come back when you don't play for a long time," said winger Jaromir Jagr, whose play on the ice defies that statement. "He did a great job, no question."

"It's always good when he's on the ice and in the room," Laviolette said. "He wanted to play tonight. It was his call."

Laviolette said Pronger has been brought along slowly.

"He has not been rushed," the coach said. "He's 100 percent healed, so it's just really about his game and getting him confident, getting his conditioning and his strength up. He's at a point where he feels he can play minutes now."

Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov looked sharp in his best start of the preseason, stopping 17 of 18 shots before being replaced by Sergei Bobrovsky (13 saves) midway through the second period. Laviolette wanted to give both goalies some work.

Fourteen seconds into the second period, New Jersey took the lead when Stephane Veilleux knocked a rebound past a helpless Bryzgalov.

Wayne Simmonds' power-play goal with 7 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the second period knotted the score. Simmonds (four goals in four games) pounced on a rebound of Claude Giroux's shot.

With 7:12 left in the third, the ageless Jagr converted a slick pass from Giroux to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. The goal, scored from the right of the net, made the Flyers 5 for 12 on the power play - with three of the goals scored by Jagr - in their last two games.

The addition of Jagr has jump-started a power play that was 19th in the 30-team NHL last season, when it clicked at 16.6 percent.

Breakaways. Because of injuries, James van Riemsdyk, Brayden Schenn, and Andreas Nodl were not in the lineup. Schenn and Nodl are not locks to make the opening-night roster. . . . Rookie forwards Matt Read (four hits) and Sean Couturier, among the players battling for roster spots, continued their impressive play. Couturier centered Max Talbot and Simmonds, while Read played left wing on an effective line that included Giroux and Jagr. . . . Backup goalie Michael Leighton was placed on waivers; the Flyers will send him to the Phantoms in the AHL if he clears. . . . Brad Mills decisioned Flyers rookie Zac Rinaldo in a second-period fight. . . . Jagr has four goals in three games.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181, or @BroadStBull on Twitter.


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