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Richards among Flyers facing offseason surgery

by Adam Kimelman /
Philadelphia captain Mike Richards is one of five Flyers facing offseason surgery, a list that could swell to as many as eight depending on medical reports that come in over the next few days.

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren told reporters Tuesday that Richards played the 2010-11 season with torn ligaments in his wrist.

"Mike's dealt with this wrist injury really since training camp," Holmgren said. "It hasn't kept him out of the lineup, but I think it has inhibited certain aspects of his play. It's affected his performance in the face-off circle and I think it's affected his shot to some degree."

Holmgren said despite knowing about the injury all season, there was no thought of Richards having surgery at any point during the regular season.

"Over time it's eroded," said Holmgren. "I think we knew at some point late in the year that he needed surgery, and we waited until the end of the season to get it taken care of. … I think the theory was, or the medical opinion was, that he could continue to play through it without damaging it any further, and take care of it at the end of the season."

Richards posted a note on his personal Twitter account Tuesday afternoon that he'll have surgery Wednesday morning.

After posting a career-best 31 goals last season and leading the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final, Richards slumped this season to just 23, and his success in the faceoff circle slipped from 50.7 percent last season to 49.8 percent this season, and it was just 41.8 percent in the playoffs. In the second round against the Bruins, he won just 20 of 54 draws (37.0 percent) in four games.

Some of Richards' play also could be chalked up to fatigue. He played 81 games this season -- he missed one game due to the flu -- and counting the last two regular seasons and playoffs, plus the 2010 Winter Olympics, Richards played a League-high 204 games. Only teammate Kimmo Timonen and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith were over 200 in that timeframe.

Holmgren also took time to address issues some in the media have raised regarding Richards' leadership ability and his relationship with coach Peter Laviolette.

"I think Mike Richards is a good captain for our team," said Holmgren. "I think he's a tremendous player in our League. Trust me -- there are 29 other teams that would love to have Mike Richards.

Laviolette had said Monday his relationship with Richards was fine.

"He (Richards) is just a quiet guy, but there is no issue in terms of Mike's relationship with Peter, or Mike's relationship with any of his teammates."

"I think that Mike is a good leader," he said "He's a quiet leader. But when he's going and our team is going, he's usually the guy at the forefront leading the charge. I think since I've been here he's done a good job.

"I wish we were practicing today. I don't think you should go on a witch hunt for Mike Richards just because we're not. That doesn't make sense to me. This is the same guy who led this team to within two games of the (Stanley) Cup last year."

Holmgren also said forwards Kris Versteeg (stomach muscle) and Blair Betts (finger), defenseman Andrej Meszaros (wrist) and goaltender Michael Leighton (hip) also will have surgeries in the coming weeks.

In addition, forwards Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell will meet with doctors regarding possible hip surgeries, and Holmgren said he hopes to know soon whether defenseman Chris Pronger will need back surgery. Pronger is dealing with either a herniated or bulging disc in his lower back, which Holmgren said had caused "some diminished leg strength." The latest injury forced him out of the final three games of the conference semifinal against the Boston Bruins.

Holmgren said nothing about Pronger's health has him worried about the 36-year-old defenseman missing time next season.

"We'll get to the bottom of this eventually," Holmgren said, "but none of the information I have so far has been cause for concern for next year."

If Pronger does need surgery, it will be his fourth procedure in the last 10 months -- he had operations on his right knee in August, his right foot in January and his right hand in March. He was limited to just 50 regular-season games, the fewest since 2002-03, when knee and wrist surgeries limited him to five games with the St. Louis Blues.

Pronger also played just three playoff games, totaling 1 assist, a minus-3 rating and four penalty minutes.

Holmgren also said he isn't second-guessing his decision to sign Pronger to a seven-year contract extension that started last summer that will keep him under contract until he's 42.

"This is the first year in quite a long time that Chris has dealt with some injuries," said Holmgren. "I don't know how you protect yourself from a broken hand or a broken foot.  This latest thing is a little bit different, but he has never had an issue in his career with his back, prior to this. Does that mean it is going to reoccur? I don’t know. It could, I guess, but it could just as easily be a one-time thing from the information that I get from our doctors. I think Chris can play the game for a long time at a high level. I think he is a special player, and I think that there are other special players in the League doing the same thing because they take care of themselves and are exceptional athletes."
Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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