Pronger to make preseason debut tonight

Chris Pronger will make his preseason debut tonight against the Devils. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren has been saying for weeks now that he remains "very optimistic" that captain Chris Pronger will make his season debut with the rest of the team next Thursday in Boston.

We just didn't know he was really that optimistic.

Pronger, set to turn 37 on Oct. 10, will make his preseason debut tonight against New Jersey at the Wells Fargo Center. Tonight's game, one of the final two preseason tune-ups, will be televised on Versus and Comcast SportsNet.

"I'm looking forward to just getting into some game action," Pronger said in a statement released by the team. "You can only practice so much and try to prepare that way, but there's not like some good, old fashioned live-action hockey. You can't simulate that.

"Decisions need to be quicker and obviously the pace of the game is a lot quicker, so getting into that action is what you need to prepare for the season."

Pronger is coming off two different offseason surgeries, which included procedures on his back and wrist. He has undergone 5 different surgeries (knee, foot, hand, back, wrist) since July, 2010.

Pronger's last game was April 30 against Boston, one of just three playoff games he attempted to play.

Pronger was not cleared to begin lifting weights until mid-August and he did not begin skating with the rest of his teammates until a few days after training camp started this month.

When he was named the Flyers' 18th captain on Sept. 16, he said one of his biggest concerns was his health. After playing just 50 games last season, his lowest total since 2002-03, Pronger wanted to make sure his bark has some bite with a daily presence in the dressing room instead of the trainer's room.

"The biggest factor before any of this other stuff came to light was trying to get myself healthy," Pronger said on Sept. 16. "[I wanted to] make sure that I was going to feel not only up to the task, but up to the challenge of playing 82 games or however many I get to play at 100, 110 percent and that I’m leaving everything out on the ice so I don’t have any regrets and you don’t feel like you’re just checking in and checking out.”

The checking-in begins tonight against the Devils. He's hoping he doesn't need to check out until sometime next June.

LEIGHTON WAIVED: To begin the process of having his salary off the cap and stashed in the minor leagues, the Flyers waived goaltender Michael Leighton, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

Leighton, 30, is set to make $1.55 million this season - but he won't be doing it in the NHL.

He played just three games with the Flyers last season, including 1 in the regular season and 2 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a star on the Goaltending Wheel of Misfortune.

Goaltenders Johan Backlund, playing on a one-way contract, and former first round pick Jason Bacashihua, were already waived and loaned to AHL Adirondack. Unless the Phantoms end up keeping three goalies, one of Backlund, Bacashihua or Leighton will end up playing elsewhere this season.

It's no surprise, then, that the only two goaltenders left in Flyers camp are Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky, the second-highest paid backup in the NHL. They will easily be the NHL's highest paid goaltending tandem this season.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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