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Pronger fully recovered, return could come soon

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com
VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger won't play Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but his return could be coming soon as he's fully recovered from the right eye injury he suffered Oct. 24.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren told reporters Friday that Pronger's vision has returned to its pre-injury level and all that remains is getting in some practice time with the team.

Pronger skated for nearly an hour during Friday's optional skate, wearing a visor to protect his injured eye. He refused to speak to the media afterward, but Holmgren said Pronger has been medically cleared to play.

"Everything's fine. His eye is healed up," Holmgren said. "His vision is back to normal. With him it's getting more practice time."

"Everything's fine. His eye is healed up. His vision is back to normal. With him it's getting more practice time."
-- Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren

Pronger has been on the ice since Wednesday, and Holmgren said the big defenseman will take part in Saturday's morning skate prior to the game against the Blue Jackets.

"He needs some practice time with the team before he becomes an option," Holmgren said. "But he's getting closer."

Holmgren said the extra practice time Pronger feels he needs has nothing to do with him adjusting to wearing a visor for the first time in his 18 NHL seasons. The GM also refused to pinpoint a return date for Pronger, saying, "He'll play when he's ready to play."

For his teammates, that can't come soon enough. The Flyers are 2-2-1 since Pronger left the Toronto game in the first period after being hit in the right eye by the stick of Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski. They've given up 20 goals in the five games he's been out after allowing just 19 in the first seven games of the season. And their power play has gone just 1-for-23 in Pronger's five-game absence, after starting the season 9-for-35.

And turnovers have been a major problem. They had 18 giveaways (seven alone in the second period) in Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to the New Jersey, with two of them directly leading to Devils goals.

"Chris is one of those players that when he's on the ice, he controls the game," teammate Danny Briere said. "He's a superstar in every aspect of the game, offensively and defensively. He's one of the best. I think in every aspect it hurts us a little bit. It's good that it gives a chance to other players to step up and have more responsibilities, but you never replace a Chris Pronger. We look forward to having him back in the lineup."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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