Pronger injury overshadows Flyers' win

Posted: October 25, 2011

CHRIS PRONGER'S blood-curdling scream could be heard, loud and clear, throughout the Wells Fargo Center.

The piercing yelp, when the stick of Toronto's Mikhail Grabovski connected with Pronger's right eyelid, was plain as day on the Maple Leafs' broadcast fed back to Canada.

For that brief second, as the Flyers' captain skated right to the bench and fell over in the hallway on the way to the locker room, time stood still. Stomachs turned over in fans and players alike.

Pronger, a 17-year veteran, doesn't often writhe on the ice in pain or exaggerate an injury. The seriousness was apparent from the moment it happened with 8 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the first period.

"You try to play through it, you try not to think about it," teammate Danny Briere said. "Obviously, it was in the back of our mind. It doesn't really matter who it is, actually, you're worried about him."

From then on, the game and its details - in which Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell each netted two goals to break a seven-game goal-less drought to start the season, powering the Flyers to a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs - was secondary.

Pronger was not wearing a visor on the play, which was not penalized as Grabovski was following through on a shot attempt.

"A million thoughts go through your head," said Hartnell, who once dealt with his own eye injury because of a high-sticking incident. "Hopefully he is all right."

Though Pronger regained vision in his right eye moments after the high stick, it appears that he is not out of the woods just yet. Pronger was not hospitalized, according to general manager Paul Holmgren, but was thoroughly examined by eye specialist Dr. Stephen Goldman before being sent back to his South Jersey home for strict bed rest.

Pronger had a cut on his right eyelid, which caused swelling to the area. Now, the biggest fear is that blood could build up behind his eye in the form of a clot, which could cause permanent vision damage.

"He's got a little bit of an issue with his eye," Holmgren said. "There's no real concern, other than if something happens over the next 3-4 days, if there is swelling or something behind the eye."

The best-case scenario would be that Pronger could return to the ice in 3 to 4 weeks.

"He's going to see an eye doctor every day for the next 4 days," Holmgren said. "We're hoping at that time that he'll be out of . . . I don't want to say . . . danger . . . If everything goes OK, and the swelling goes down, he should be able to start an exercise program."

For the Maple Leafs, Pronger's close call hit home. It was on March 11, 2000, that Toronto defenseman Bryan Berard lost most of the sight in his right eye after being high-sticked by Ottawa's Marian Hossa.

Berard underwent seven eye surgeries over the next year-and-a-half to try to get his vision down to the league minimum of 20/400 in his right eye to be eligible. He played for the Rangers, Boston, Chicago, Columbus and the Islanders before failing to make the Flyers out of training camp in 2008.

Pronger's team was down, 1-0, at the time of the incident but quickly rallied to score on a power play after a penalized high-sticking, which cut Matt Read, knotted the game.

"We heard it and everyone was searching for the puck," Jagr said. "It was a stick. We were all worried."

Jagr, who had three breakaways against Jonas Gustavsson, was able to beat him twice on the same net with the same shot to the same spot. Skating along the glass, as the Flyers fans roared, Jagr brought back his signature celebration: taking his glove off to salute the crowd.

Jagr said the goals were a huge weight off his shoulders, as he helped his team snap a two-game losing streak in the process.

"That's really what I needed. I feel a lot better," Jagr said. "I changed everything, my gloves, my skates. Then I got hit in the head in warmups. That helped."

Other than Andreas Nodl and Jody Shelley, Hartnell and Jagr were the only Flyers regulars to not net a goal so far this season.

"It was nice to get one, even if I had to go on my knees and shovel it under his pads," Hartnell said. "It's nice to help out."

Still, Pronger was the real focus. Now, Pronger and the Flyers will wait. And pray.

Hartnell knows what Pronger will be going through over the next week, with his status up in the air. Hartnell was high-sticked by his own teammate in his second NHL season in Nashville, which quickly convinced him to play with a visor.

"I had bleeding on my retina," Hartnell said. "It's scary. I was on bed rest for an entire week. You're laying there and you don't know if your career is over or if you're going to play again. It's a horrible feeling."

Slap shots

It was Jaromir Jagr's 114th career two-goal game . . . Danny Briere notched his 600th NHL point . . . With Chris Pronger out indefinitely, look for Andreas Lilja and Matt Walker to remain in the lineup. The Flyers do not have the salary-cap space to bring in a replacement defenseman unless Pronger is put on the long-term injured reserve, which would require him to miss 10 games or 25 days.

For more news and analysis,

read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

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