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Flyers deny Chris Pronger injury is worse than first thought

Chris Pronger has a hand injury and hasn't yet played in these playoffs. (Getty Images)

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Chris Pronger has a hand injury and hasn't yet played in these playoffs. (Getty Images)

BUFFALO – Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, but even when he does he dominates the headlines.

Prior to his team’s morning skate to prepare for Game 3 of their first round series against the Buffalo Sabres, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren vehemently shot down a report that Pronger’s injured right hand is worse than first thought. A Philadelphia television station reported that Pronger, who is recovering from surgery on his right wrist, actually has a fracture in his hand that requires a plate and that he is unable to grip a stick.

For the record, Pronger was out on the ice with his teammates for the morning skate and was shooting, but rather gingerly.

“Apparently people can just throw anything at the wall and see if it sticks,” Holmgren said. “Obviously he’s not coming along as fast as everyone thought at the time when the initial injury happened…but when he feels like he can play, he’ll play. He’s day-to-day right now.”

Pronger won’t be in the lineup for Game 3 Monday night in Buffalo and it’s doubtful he’ll even consider making an appearance before Game 5, if at all in this series. That is not great news for the Flyers, who know very well how much Pronger raises his game in the playoffs and has the ability to be a game-changer in the post-season. But it’s not as though they haven’t had to endure stretches without him this season.

Injuries to Pronger’s knee, foot and wrist limited him to just 50 games this season. The Flyers were slightly better with Pronger (31-14-5, .670 points percentage), than without him (16-9-7, .609). But Philly was just 6-4-6 down the stretch when Pronger missed the last 16 games of the season.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said the team would obviously miss Pronger’s presence, but feel confident in their abilities even without him.

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“Do we wish we had Chris Pronger?” Laviolette said. “Sure, who wouldn’t? But we’ve played some good hockey without him in the lineup.”

The intrigue with the Orange and Black doesn’t end there, though. Laviolette announced veteran Brian Boucher will start Game 3 after bailing his team out in Game 2. That did not come as much of a surprise, but 2010 playoff hero Michael Leighton came off the ice second after the morning skate, while rookie Sergei Bobrovsky stayed out with the injured players and black aces. That left many to speculate Leighton would be the backup for Game 3. Neither Laviolette nor Leighton would comment.

For the short term, though, it appears the Flyers are calling on the 34-year-old Boucher to come to the rescue once again.

“I thought Brian has come in the last couple of times and done a nice job for us,” Laviolette said. “He’s on top of his game and in charge of his net and he has bailed us out in a couple of situations and I really feel like he deserves to go in there and play.”

For the Sabres, Andrej Sekera did not skate and was not even at HSBC Arena Monday morning after taking a puck in the chest in Game 2. The Sabres were not saying whether or not the blueliner would play, but have not called anyone up from their American League team in Portland. They do, however, have Dennis Persson around as an extra defenseman.

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear every Monday throughout the season.

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