For his first time on the ice in more than four months, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger
said Friday that he felt pretty good.
However, he knows a true test of the condition of his surgically repaired back won't come until the weekend.
"We'll see how I feel (Saturday)," he told reporters at Virtua Skate Zone here following his 25-minute solo skate. "Having not skated or done anything on the ice in 4 1/2 months, you've got to take it slowly and see how you feel day by day. I felt pretty good out there. Usually the first time on the ice is when you feel good. Then it's Day 2, 3, 4, and 5 you're a little suspect. We'll see how I feel (Saturday)."
The last time Pronger skated was April 30, in Game 1 of the Flyers' second-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins. He was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his lower back not long after, and had surgery May 12.
The back surgery was the fourth procedure Pronger had during the 2010-11 season, following knee surgery in August, foot surgery in January and wrist surgery in March. He termed it "the year from hell."
He's slowly been lifting his level of activity since his back operation, which involved the removal of a portion of the disc that had been pressing on a nerve in his spinal column and causing numbness in his leg. He's gone from working out on a treadmill to a Stairmaster and exercise bike, and in late August he was cleared to begin weight training. Friday, however, was a big milestone.
"It's different muscles," he said 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."
Pronger took wrist shots and slap shots while he was on the ice, which also put stress on his surgically repaired right wrist. He initially injured the wrist in February and had surgery in March that sidelined him until Game 6 of the Flyers' first-round series against the Buffalo Sabres. He still has the wrist wrapped and said he's continuing to work that area back to full strength as well.
"It felt pretty good out there," he said, adding he didn't feel any restriction in his range of motion. "I was a little surprised, but it felt pretty good. I was shooting pretty good, I think."
Pronger skated wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants Friday; he said the next step will be putting on his full uniform with pads.
"I think we'll slowly try to increase the time on ice," he said. "Probably wear my gear next time, get that extra weight on. Get skating with all your stuff on, get used to that, and try to ramp things up from there."
Considering Friday was his first time on the ice, it's almost certain Pronger won't be ready to take part in training camp, which opens for on-ice work Sept. 17. The season opener, Oct. 6 in Boston, also remains in doubt.
"I've got probably a couple more weeks of strength training to get back to where I should be before I start practicing with the team and doing things like that," Pronger said Friday. "We're getting there."