Paul Holmgren says he is not worried.
But Holmgren, at the very least, admitted on Saturday night that “something is going on in there,” inside Chris Pronger’s right wrist.
Pronger sat out Saturday’s mind-boggling loss to the Thrashers, missing his second game in a row. Pronger was wearing a hard cast on his wrist on Saturday, though Holmgren said that was the same apparatus he’s been wearing on-and-off since blocking a shot against the Islanders on Feb. 24.
“There is obviously something going on in there that’s inhibiting the strength of it,” Holmgren said. “If you’re a hockey player and you can’t grip your stick, you’re going to have a hard time.”
Pronger’s status during the Flyers’ upcoming road trip – which begins Sunday with a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – is unknown, though Holmgren said Pronger will make the trip.
Since sustaining the injury, Pronger missed one game – at Ottawa on Feb. 26 – but then returned for three games before deciding to sit out again. Holmgren said Pronger did not re-aggravate the injury, he did not block a second shot.
“It’s just, he thought it was good and it wasn’t,” Holmgren said. “He wasn’t completely 100 percent before he played that game. Now he is taking a little bit of a step back, but, like I said, he has gotten better the past few days. He has not really taken part of anything with a puck.”
Pronger, 36, has 25 points this season from the Flyers’ blue line, but he’s played in just 50 games. That puts him on track to play 60, which would be his lowest total in a season since 2006-07 when he played 66. Pronger skated in all 82 games each of the past two seasons.
Pronger has visited noted hand and wrist specialists, including Dr. Randall Culp and Dr. Graham, to try and come up with a solution. Every x-ray and MRI taken has returned negative. Holmgren said swelling is also no longer an issue.
For now, Pronger will continue to skate. The supportive cast was to help with “soreness” and “healing,” according to Holmgren.
“I’m not worried,” Holmgren said. “Chris wants to play. It’s going to get better each day. When he feels like he can play, he’ll play. As it continues to get better, we’ll see how it goes.”
Holmgren said part of his lack of concern is the Flyers’ depth on defense. But at what point do you start to worry that a nagging injury just may not have a short-term solution that will allow Pronger to get through the rest of the season?
Nick Boynton played close to 18 minutes for the Flyers on Saturday as Pronger’s replacement. He played 93 percent of his shifts with Matt Carle in Thursday’s win at Toronto, and the increase in his ice time is a direct correlation to the way defenseman Sean O’Donnell has continued to struggle.
O’Donnell, 39, was turned around on Saturday night by Evander Kane for the Thrashers’ first goal on Saturday night. Though it was the first of 4 goals in the final frame, it was the second time in as many games O’Donnell had been taken advantage of on a rush by a player with more speed.
Mike Brown, a role player for Toronto, blew by O’Donnell on Thursday in Toronto to set up Joffrey Lupul for a goal that cut the Flyers’ lead in half.
O’Donnell started the season No. 2 in the NHL in plus/minus, but he is not even in the NHL’s top 100 at this late juncture. Though plus/minus is a flawed stat, it does give some sort of indication as to the quality of defense being played.
O’Donnell climbed back to even in each of the last two games, but is a minus-7 in his last 11 games played. He has had just one game as a plus during that stretch.
This is not a witch hunt against O’Donnell, by any means. It’s just to say that if Pronger was healthy, perhaps the Flyers could afford to give the normally responsible and steady defenseman a night off to regroup and keep a fresh Boynton in the lineup. O’Donnell – and good buddy Pronger – will be a big part of the Flyers’ playoff run.
“I happen to like it when [Andrej] Meszaros, [Braydon] Coburn and [Matt] Carle play more minutes,” Holmgren said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers
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