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Pronger plans to make preseason debut vs. Devils

by Mike G. Morreale
A little over a month ago, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger was told there was a 98 percent chance of his making a full recovery from offseason back surgery just in time for the season opener on Oct. 6.

Apparently, the Flyers captain isn't going to wait that long.

Pronger told reporters following the team's morning skate at the Flyers Virtua Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., on Thursday that he'll return to the lineup this evening for the team's scheduled preseason matchup against the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CSN-PH) at Wells Fargo Center.

"I'm looking forward to just getting into some game action," Pronger told the Flyers website. "You can only practice so much and try to prepare that way, but there's nothing like some good old fashion, live-action hockey. You can't simulate that. Decisions need to be quicker and obviously the pace of a game is a lot quicker so getting into that action is what you need to prepare for the season."

Back on Aug. 25, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren admitted Pronger had been progressing nicely following back surgery in May. It was his fourth major procedure in a year's time, following knee surgery in August -- which kept him out of training camp and the first two games of 2010-11 -- foot surgery in December and the hand surgery in March.

Chris Pronger
Defense, 2010-11 STATS
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 25
SOG: 112 | +/-: 7
The 6-foot-6, 214-pound Pronger was given the full go-ahead to begin rigorous training once again late last month by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frank Cammisa.

"We anticipate he'll be ready for the start of the season," Holmgren said at the time. "Whether he can take part in any preseason games or not is probably a little too soon to tell."

Not anymore.

The 17-year veteran had 4 goals and 25 points in 50 games last season -- his lowest game total since 2002-03, when knee and wrist injuries limited him to just five games with the St. Louis Blues. He was limited to just three of Philadelphia's 11 Stanley Cup playoff games last spring, first due to the hand injury and then his back problems.

According to Richard Balderston, chief of spinal surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital, the chances of Pronger's injury returning are about 2 percent.

On a conference call with the media last month, Pronger, who turns 37 on Oct. 10, said the recent surgeries he underwent had hindered his offseason training regimen. He would normally have two months of strength training done by August. He was doing everything possible, however, to make certain he would be in the lineup for the season opener at TD Garden against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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