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Pronger to miss 4-6 weeks with broken foot

by Adam Kimelman
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his right foot, the team announced Friday.

Pronger had surgery Friday afternoon to repair a broken first metatarsal in his right foot. The 36-year-old blocked a shot during the second period of Wednesday's game against the Montreal Canadiens and did not return.

It's the second time this season Pronger will have a long-term injury absence. The veteran blueliner had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in August and missed all of training camp and the first two games of the regular season while recovering.

In 31 games this season, Pronger has 4 goals and 15 points while playing an average of 22:20 per game, second on the team.

Last season, his first in Philadelphia, Pronger was named team MVP after finishing with 10 goals and 55 points in 82 games. He had 18 points in 22 games last spring in helping the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1997. He averaged a League-high 29:03 of ice time per game in the postseason.

"It's disappointing," Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said. "It is what it is. Other guys will pick up the slack."

One of them will be Oskars Bartulis. The 23-year-old Latvian has been on the roster all season, but has played just three games this season, with the most recent one being Nov. 1. At Friday's practice, he was paired with veteran Sean O'Donnell.

"Oskars gets a chance to go in the lineup and play for an extended period of time," said Holmgren. "I'm looking forward to that for him."

"You always want to play," Bartulis told reporters. "That's (something) every hockey player wants. That's my situation right now -- if somebody gets hurt, I'm playing."

Bartulis had 9 points in 53 games last season, and also played in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.

"It's an opportunity for Oskars to get in there and play some games and get back in the lineup," coach Peter Laviolette told reporters. "It's tough sitting out game after game. We've been healthy on the back end for a while now. When you come in every day and you're not part of it, you're sitting out, you're waiting for that opportunity to get back in. I'm sure he's excited and motivated to get back in there and get out and play some games."

"You always want to play. That's (something) every hockey player wants. That's my situation right now -- if somebody gets hurt, I'm playing."
-- Oskars Bartulis

The Flyers' other defense pairings featured Andrej Meszaros taking Pronger's spot alongside Matt Carle, and Kimmo Timonen with Braydon Coburn.

However, it's not just the blue line that suffers without Pronger. He was on the first power play unit and the first pairing for penalty kills. At Friday's practice, center Mike Richards played the point on the power play.

Holmgren said he has no plans to call up an extra defenseman from the American Hockey League. He believes that since the regular six defensemen all were playing fewer minutes than they're used to, filling the loss of Pronger won't be an issue.

"Because of the depth of our group, the six guys that are in the lineup, all their minutes were down from last year," said Holmgren. "Matt Carle's have been down, Braydon Coburn's have been down Andrej Meszaros is used to playing more than 18 minutes a game during his NHL career. Kimmo has played less minutes. Those guys are just going to have to play more minutes. When you take a guy out of your lineup that's averaging 22 or 23 minutes, everybody else gets the chance to play more. When you're a hockey player, that's a good thing -- you want to play more minutes."

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