MONTREAL -- The Philadelphia Flyers came off the ice after a 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night feeling pretty good about themselves -- until the media walked in the dressing room and informed the players that their captain, Chris Pronger, would miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs with a concussion.
The team made the announcement during the first period of the game and coach Peter Laviolette was informed of the news just prior to the opening faceoff, but the players had no idea and were somewhat shocked to hear it from reporters.
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Defenseman Braydon Coburn – who logged a team-high 24:21 on Thursday night – chose to look at things from a positive perspective.
"There are lots of opportunities," Coburn said. "That's what this club is all about, we've got great depth. When they overhauled this team in the summer time I think that was the focus, having outstanding depth."
Laviolette emphasized to his team the importance of remaining focused on winning despite all the injury news surrounding the Flyers these days; considering Thursday night's victory was their seventh in a row, that does not appear to be much of an issue.
Still, it's obvious that Pronger makes the Flyers a much better club, and losing him for the season stings.
"Certainly the news is not what we wanted, it's hard to replace a guy like that," Laviolette said. "In saying that, we've been moving forward without Chris and more recently without Claude (Giroux). While those injuries are tough to take, I think our team has responded extremely well."
Laviolette was asked if the finality of the news on Pronger would remove the potential distraction of waiting for his return, but he did not see it quite the same way.
"There was hope (Pronger would return)," he said. "Right now there's none."
The Flyers have seen this happen before -- Ian Laperriere was lost to a concussion last season, an injury he still hasn't come back from. Coburn said Laperriere still found a way to have an impact on the team, and he sees Pronger doing the same thing.
"I saw what Ian Laperriere did around our room last year, it was quite obvious that he was not going to play for us, but he definitely played a large leadership role, especially with our young guys," Coburn said. "That's a reason he won that award [the Bill Masterton Trophy]. With Prongs and his strong personality, he'll be there for us. He watches all the games and he'll text me and some other guys, and he always has insight that only a player can give other players."
While Coburn is shouldering a heavier workload, Pronger's minutes are being absorbed pretty evenly by Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros. The two rookies on the Flyers defense who are getting an opportunity to play in the absence of Pronger and Andreas Lilja, Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon, have been used sparingly. With Lilja set to return soon from a high ankle sprain that has cost him eight games the Flyers will have another veteran available to share the increased workload.
Maxime Talbot, who was with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season when they lost Sidney Crosby for the season due to a concussion, said the most important thing for the Flyers right now is to accept the current reality and move forward.
“We lose his leadership and a lot of little things that Chris brings this team, but the rest of us just need to work harder,” Talbot said. “I’m not saying players need to change their roles, we just need to work harder because we’re missing a big piece. We all have to give more. Last season, we lost Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh and guys came up from the American Hockey League and scored big goals for us. That’s what we need to do here.”