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No need for Pronger to rush back to Flyers

By Dan Di Sciullo
NHL Editor


Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In a few weeks time, the importance of NFL training camp will be called into question when Brett Favre starts the regular season under center for the Minnesota Vikings.

At 40 years of age, Favre will get just over three weeks of practice in with his teammates before the start of the 2010 season, and the abbreviated training camp will likely give the legendary quarterback more than enough time to get back into the swing of things.

The Philadelphia Flyers could learn a thing or two from Favre when contemplating the situation concerning their No. 1 defenseman Chris Pronger, who is currently recovering from surgery to his right knee.

Pronger underwent a procedure on July 27 to remove loose bodies from his knee and his recovery time is expected to bleed into the start of training camp. There is also concern that the veteran blueliner will not be ready to play for the defending Eastern Conference champion Flyers when they begin the regular season in Pittsburgh on October 7.

Like Favre, Pronger is a seasoned professional who at this stage of his career needs little time to get prepared for a season. Unlike NFL players, Pronger doesn't even need to study a bulky playbook to get ready for the campaign; he simply needs to be physically fit.

It's no secret that Pronger is an immensely unpopular player amongst NHL fans (unless he suits up for your favorite team, of course), but there are few people who can deny the mammoth defenseman's work ethic and passion for the game of hockey. His current injury and the way he battled through it during the Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring stands as a testament to his determination.

Chris Pronger is a seasoned professional who at this stage of his career needs little time to get prepared for a season.
Pronger originally suffered the injury in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston, but the ailment never caused him to miss a game. In fact, Pronger still wound up leading the entire league in ice time during the postseason, averaging just over 29 minutes of action per contest. He even managed to log a whopping 37 minutes and 33 seconds of ice time just six days after hurting the knee.

But, that was the playoffs, the time of the year when players of Pronger's ilk prove what their true value is to an NHL team. There is little doubt that Pronger will do everything in his power to be back for the start of the regular season, but both he and the Flyers know that the former Hart and Norris Trophy winner's overall health is the bigger priority.

"I do not have a time frame. The team knows that," said Pronger last week. "I spoke to the doctor and trainer and it is really just about when my knee feels good and strong again. I don't want to come back early and play a couple of games and then be out of the lineup and then play a few more and be out. I want to come back when the knee is as close to 100 percent as possible so I can play every single game from then on."

The fact that the Flyers have shored up their blueline over the course of this offseason should also be a factor in Pronger taking his time getting back into game shape. Philly acquired Andrej Meszaros and Matt Walker in separate trades with the Tampa Bay Lightning and also signed veteran Sean O'Donnell. That trio, combined with Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn, could be a solid six-man rotation for the Flyers while the club waits to regain the unique skill set Pronger brings to the ice.

The Flyers should be able to keep their heads above water if Pronger happens to miss the start of the season. After all, unlike the NFL, the regular season in hockey is an 82-game marathon and not a 16-game sprint.

Just as Favre knows the importance of getting on the field in time for the start of the campaign, Pronger has been around long enough to realize that his club can hold on for a couple of weeks before he joins them on their long road to qualify for the playoffs.

It's not an ideal situation for the Flyers and Pronger, but it's also not an issue that should have a big effect on their postseason dreams.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.

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Dan Di Sciullo