The star defenseman and new team captain took a major step in that direction Monday, skating with teammates for the first time since April 30, which was Game 1 of the team's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Boston Bruins.
"I had a good day today, but we'll see how I am (Tuesday) after partaking a little bit more than the day before. I've had some not-so-good days, a couple days where I have not felt great. Usually, the next day, you push through and feel a little better. I felt pretty good today. I didn't feel great, but it was a good start." -- Chris Pronger
He was on the ice for about 30 minutes, paired mostly with newcomer Andreas Lilja. Pronger was cautiously optimistic about how his back felt after the workout.
"I had a good day today, but we'll see how I am (Tuesday) after partaking a little bit more than the day before," he told reporters. "I've had some not-so-good days, a couple days where I have not felt great. Usually, the next day, you push through and feel a little better. I felt pretty good today. I didn't feel great, but it was a good start."
The back procedure was Pronger's fourth in a 10-month span last season, and ended what he termed "the year from hell."
Pronger had been working out slowly in his recovery from the back operation, but getting on the ice for the first time was a milestone moment. Another milestone came Monday.
"It's different muscles," he said last week of skating. "It doesn't matter what you're doing -- Stairmaster, bike, treadmill, whatever. Skating is a completely different motion. You use a lot of different muscles you don't normally use. You can't simulate it (skating) -- you have to go out and do it. At the end of the day to get in game shape you have to skate."
He's doing that now, prompting Holmgren to say he has full confidence Pronger -- named the 18th captain in team history Sept. 16 -- will be in the starting lineup Oct. 6.
"I'll still say he'll be ready at the start of the regular season," Holmgren told NHL.com. "Whether he plays a (preseason) game or not is not an issue for me. He's certainly played enough of those in his 18-year career. He knows how to play the game. He also knows how to prepare and play for a regular 82-game season and playoffs."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK