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Hand surgery to sideline Pronger 3-4 weeks

by Adam Kimelman
Philadelphia Flyers All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger will have surgery Tuesday to repair a broken bone in his right hand and could miss the rest of the regular season.

"Chris had a CT scan on his right hand on Sunday and a small fracture was discovered," Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren told the team's website. "Our doctors believe surgery is the best route to take with the injury. Surgery will be done Tuesday morning in Cleveland by Dr. Tom Graham. Chris will be able to return to play in 3-4 weeks."

Holmgren said the surgical option made for the quickest resolution to the problem.

"The doctors along with Chris and (head athletic trainer) Jimmy McCrossin sat down and talked and we feel going in and just putting a little screw in this little piece of bone is the best way to move forward in terms of the healing process and getting him back to playing as soon as possible," Holmgren said in a conference call with reporters. "The reason they want to put the screw in is to make it more stable. Given the time frame of recovery after the surgery, in three weeks, everybody thinks it's going to be more stable than it ever was and it takes away any risk of re-injuring it."

If Pronger misses all four weeks, he won't be available until the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A three-week timeframe brings him back April 5 and could see him return for the final three regular-season games. The Flyers have 14 games left, starting Tuesday in Florida.

Holmgren said he's hopeful Pronger will be back on the shorter end of the timeline.

"Right now we think 3-4 weeks, we feel we're in the right frame of mind there," said Holmgren. "I'll probably know a little bit more tomorrow on how things go, but based on the information we're getting from the doctors and what they see and what they think is going to take place during the surgery, that timeframe is accurate."

Pronger initially injured the hand in the second period of a Feb. 24 game against the New York Islanders when he was hit in the hand by a shot. He missed a game two days later against the Senators, but played the next four.

But it was the last one in that stretch, March 8 against the Oilers, that the injury flared up again. Pronger hasn't played since.

"He played the game against Edmonton and he did jam it along the boards," said Holmgren. "Whether that made it worse or maybe even caused this little break, we don't know. Nothing showed up on the X-rays, nothing really showed up in the MRI, but for peace of mind, we got this CT scan done (Sunday) and lo and behold, there's this little piece of bone that's broken away. As I said, the best way to deal with it now according to the doctors -- and they're the ones that know this stuff -- both hand specialists that we're dealing with just want to go in and put a screw in there to expedite the healing and everything else involved."

The 36-year-old Pronger has 25 points in 50 games and leads the Flyers with an average of 22:29 of ice time per game, but Saturday's game was the 18th he's missed due to injury.

"We miss him in the lineup," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said prior to Saturday's game. "The fact that he's not in there, everybody gets concerned about that. He plays 25 minutes, 22 minutes because we're not pressing him that much. He's a guy that does a lot of things for us and plays in a lot of situations. Certainly you'd like to have him in the lineup."

Veteran Nick Boynton has replaced Pronger the last two games and performed serviceably, playing alongside Matt Carle, Pronger's regular partner. He has an even plus/minus rating and two penalty minutes while averaging 14:39 of ice time per game.

The Flyers also recalled rookie Erik Gustafsson from AHL Adirondack. Gustafsson played his first NHL game Feb. 26 at Ottawa -- replacing Pronger in the lineup -- and had one shot and four penalty minutes in 16:06 of ice time. In 59 AHL games, Gustafsson leads the team with 31 assists and is second with 36 points.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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