Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger is making so much progress that general manager Paul Holmgren expects him to be ready for the Oct. 6 opener in Boston.
Speaking for the first time since he broke his shoulder and ribs in a bicycle accident on Sept. 5, Holmgren said Pronger was “on track” to start the season with the team.
“Physically, Chris is feeling better than even he thought he would,” Holmgren said after the rookies went through the second day of prospect camp at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. “He’s pushed the envelope a little bit the last few days, going on the ice and shooting the puck. I asked him the other day how far behind he is in terms of what he would have done in a normal year. He said, ‘I probably would have skated a couple weeks ago.’ So I think he’s right on track for all he’s been through.”
Pronger had four surgeries (back, hand, foot, knee) in a 9½-month span last season. He skated Friday for the first time in four-plus months, and he has skated two more times since that day.
“I’m excited for him being ready at the beginning of the season, and I believe he is, too,” Holmgren said.
Holmgren said there was no timetable for naming the captain. Pronger, who will turn 37 next month, is expected to be named, though Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen are also candidates.
“I’ve had some talks with Lavy about the direction,” said Holmgren, referring to head coach Peter Laviolette. “I don’t think we’re in any big rush.”
After watching Tuesday’s practice, Holmgren praised several prospects, including 20-year-old left winger Tyler Brown. “His speed has caught my eye,” he said.
Holmgren downplayed the fact that the Flyers will have to find ways to replace the 78 goals scored last season by Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Ville Leino.
“A lot of times our offense has been questioned,” Holmgren said, “and we always seem to be in the upper echelon of the conference in terms of goals scored. “
Holmgren thinks newcomers Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Jaromir Jagr _ and the development of Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk _ will offset the offensive losses.
Said winger Scott Hartnell, one of many veterans who arrived early to train in Voorhees: “You hate to see a lot of your good friends go _ and great players in the league _ but it is kind of a meat market and if they can sell you for somebody younger who they think can do the same job, they’re going to do it.”
Hartnell believes the Flyers will get balanced scoring and that they will be a much stingier defensive team. He likes what he has seen from new goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in informal workouts.
“Just shooting at him in practice, he looks unbelievable,” Hartnell said.
The Flyers’ veteran camps begins Saturday.
“It’s exciting,” said Hartnell, adding he “can’t wait” to meet Jagr. “You get the feeling that everyone is fighting for jobs, so it’s going to be a competitive camp.”
Breakaways. Speedy Eric Wellwood is among the prospects vying for a winger spot. “You’re not going to camp just to practice; you’re coming here to make the team _ and it seems like there are opportunities,” he said of the difference between the last two camps…..Holmgren said his recovery from his bike accident was “slow going.”…..The Flyers have the maximum number of contracts (50) and would have to make a roster move if someone like veteran Michael Nylander made the team. They also have an offer to Adam Mair to come to camp on a tryout. If he accepts, “I think it will raise the level of competitiveness,” Holmgren said…..The Flyers played in a golf outing in Pine Hill on Tuesday to benefit the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at BroadStBull.
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