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Pronger hopes to be ready for season opener

Tuesday, 08.09.2011 / 10:20 AM / 2011 Offseason News

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Pronger hopes to be ready for season opener
Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger, who's rehabbing from back and hand surgery, says his goal is to be in the Flyers' lineup for their season-opener in Boston on Oct. 6.
Chris Pronger is doing everything possible to make certain he's in the lineup for the Philadelphia Flyers' season opener at TD Garden against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Oct. 6.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, the defenseman said the recent surgeries he's undergone have hindered his offseason training regimen -- he would normally have two months of strength training done by this point in the summer, but he's not expected to be ready for the start of Flyers training camp on Sept. 16.

"The goal is to be ready for Game 1 of the regular season," he said. "I am starting to progress. I think (GM Paul Holmgren) talked last week about being cleared to progress my cardio and things like that, and grab light weights and do some shoulder work. Once I get cleared, I can start getting into a full lifting program."

On May 12, Pronger had a discectomy -- a procedure that involved the removal of herniated disc material that had been pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord. The pressure was causing the back and leg issues that sidelined him for the final three games of the Flyers' second-round series against the Boston Bruins. Earlier surgery on his right hand, while 80- to 85-percent healed, has restricted his weightlifting routine. Despite being two months behind in his strength program, Pronger hopes to get permission to start lifting weights in a week.

The back surgery was the fourth major procedure for Pronger in a year's time, following knee surgery in August -- which kept him out of training camp and the first two games of 2010-11 -- foot surgery in December and hand surgery in March.

The 17-year veteran had 4 goals and 25 points in 50 games last season -- his lowest game total since 2002-03, when knee and wrist injuries limited him to just five games while playing for the St. Louis Blues. He was limited to just three of Philadelphia's 11 Stanley Cup playoff games last spring, first due to the hand injury and then his back problems.

When asked if he was feeling any pain at this point, he responded, "Just sitting here talking to you guys, I have no pain. Other than my brain."

Pronger, who turns 37 on Oct. 10, talked about the offseason makeover that Holmgren orchestrated.

"(When) you look at offensive production and things of that nature, I think you need to look at projections and where guys are going to take their game with increased ice time, increased power-play time," he said. "With the addition of (Jaromir) Jagr, you're hopefully going to get 50 or 60 points out of him. (Claude Giroux), who knows where he takes his game to, and (James van Riemsdyk) scratched the surface last year in the playoffs and hopefully he comes back and is able to take his game to the next level."

While there may be an adjustment period following the loss of Mike Richards (to Los Angeles), Jeff Carter (to Columbus) and Ville Leino (to Buffalo) this summer, Pronger believes the team will persevere and once again be a solid contender.

"We don't want to be in shootouts and don't want to play in games that are 8-7," Pronger said. "We want to be able to rely on our goaltender and our defense, which is where we're built, and our youth up front. Get skating, get physical and get in on the play and create turnovers."

Pronger said it will be exciting to have an opportunity to play in front of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who was signed to a nine-year deal worth $51 million in June. The two were teammates in Anaheim when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

"I've kind of seen him mature over the last five or six years since I was with him in Anaheim, and you know he's kind of taken his game to the next level," Pronger said. "He's played in Phoenix and kind of carried their team to the playoffs. I think we play a very similar defensive style as they did there, very tight, and I'd like to think we play pretty sound defensively.

"I don't think he's going to be getting 35-40 shots a night, but you know, 20-25 shots."

He also had his usual fun with the media when asked how much he had left in the tank.

"I don't really know that you could say I was breaking down, with broken bones and being hit by pucks," Pronger said. "Those are all the things that can sometimes be avoided. Perhaps now I may not block as many shots. I may just get out of the way and let our million dollar goaltender stop those things."

Pronger led the Flyers with 189 blocked shots in 2009-10 and, despite playing just 50 games last season, was fifth with 114 blocks.

He does feel the missed time in 2010-11 might re-energize him entering this season, his third with the Flyers.

"You're able to allow your body to hopefully fully recover," Pronger said. "I 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."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
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