Saturday, October 10, 2015

Walker, Lilja trying to fill Pronger's absence

With Chris Pronger expected to miss at least six games because of an eye injury, Matt Walker and Andreas Lilja figure to be part of the Flyers’ defensive rotation for the next two weeks. Or longer.

Walker, Lilja trying to fill Pronger's absence


With Chris Pronger expected to miss at least six games because of an eye injury, Matt Walker and Andreas Lilja figure to be part of the Flyers’ defensive rotation for the next two weeks. Or longer.

The veterans had been alternating between being a healthy scratch or being used as the sixth defenseman.

“It’s not the way you want to go in, but there’s an opportunity for me,” Lilja said after a short practice Tuesday in Voorhees. “We’re all going to have to chip in and take over his minutes. It’s a tough job, but we can all chip in and do what you have to do.”

“It’s a chance to get more games in, but it’s tough to see anybody go down, especially when it has to do with your eye,” said Walker, whose team will use some new defensive parings Wednesday night in Montreal. “Hopefully, Chris is back; the sooner the better. It’s best for him and best for the team to get him back on the ice.”

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Pronger, 37,was examined by Stephen Goldman, the team’s eye doctor, again on Tuesday, and general manager Paul Holmgren said the defenseman was "progressing very well."

In Monday’s 4-2 win over Toronto, Pronger was hit by an inadvertent stick from the Maple Leafs’ Mikhail Grabovski.

For the time being, the Flyers will have one extra forward and no extra defensemen.

The Flyers have only about $21,000 in cap room, so they don’t have many options. They could, however, get an extra defenseman if they sent Walker ($1.7 million cap hit) back to Adirondack; he cleared waivers earlier this month and wouldn’t have to clear again until after Nov. 4.

With Walker’s cap hit off the books, the Flyers would have enough room to recall defensemen Oskars Bartulis ($600,000 cap hit) and Erik(CQ) Gustaffson ($900,000) from the Phantoms.

But for now, Walker _ who has played in just two of the team’s eight games _ will be given a shot to stay in the defense’s rotation.

Coach Peter Laviolette tried to downplay the loss of Pronger, the team’s captain and defensive leader.

“Injuries are part of it. Every team goes through it,” he said. “You have to deal with it and you’d like to get by. We’d much rather have him in there; he’s a world-class defenseman. In saying that, we were able to manage without him (Monday) and we’re going to have to do it moving forward. We’ve got great defensemen back there, a good core.”

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Inquirer Staff Writer
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