Philadelphia Flyers All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger will have surgery Tuesday to repair a broken bone in his right hand and could miss the rest of the regular season.
"Chris had a CT scan on his right hand on Sunday and a small fracture was discovered," Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren told the team's website. "Our doctors believe surgery is the best route to take with the injury. Surgery will be done Tuesday morning in Cleveland by Dr. Tom Graham. Chris will be able to return to play in 3-4 weeks."
Holmgren said the surgical option made for the quickest resolution to the problem.
"The doctors along with Chris sat down and talked and putting a little screw in this little piece of bone is the best way to move forward in terms of the healing process and getting him back to playing as soon as possible," Holmgren said in a conference call with reporters. "The reason they want to put the screw in is to make it more stable. Given the time frame after recovery from the surgery and 3 weeks, everyone thinks it's going to be more stable than it ever was and takes away any risk of re-injuring it."
If Pronger misses all four weeks, he won't be available until the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A three-week timeframe brings him back April 5 and could see him return for the final three regular-season games. The Flyers have 14 games left, starting Tuesday in Florida.
Holmgren said he's hopeful Pronger will be back on the shorter end of the timeline.
"Right now we think 3-4 weeks is where we feel we're in the right frame there," Holmgren said. "I'll probably know more tomorrow depending on how things go, but the information we're getting and what will take place, we think it's accurate."
Pronger initially injured the hand in the second period of a Feb. 24 game against the New York Islanders when he was hit in the hand by a shot. He missed a game two days later against the Senators, but played the next four.
But it was the last one in that stretch, March 8 against the Oilers, that the injury flared up again. Pronger hasn't played since.
"The game against Edmonton he did jam it along the boards," Holmgren said. "If that made it worse or caused the little break, we don't know. It didn't show up in the X-rays, nothing showed up in the MRI. It was more piece of mind that we went ahead and got this CT scan done (Sunday) and there's a little piece of bone that's broke away. The best way to deal with it, both hand specialists we're dealing with said, we're going to go in and put a screw in there to expedite the healing and everything else involved."
The 36-year-old Pronger has 25 points in 50 games and leads the Flyers with an average of 22:29 of ice time per game, but Saturday's game was the 18th he's missed due to injury.
"We miss him in the lineup," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said prior to Saturday's game. "The fact that he's not in there, everybody gets concerned about that. He plays 25 minutes, 22 minutes because we're not pressing him that much. He's a guy that does a lot of things for us and plays in a lot of situations. Certainly you'd like to have him in the lineup."
Veteran Nick Boynton has replaced Pronger the last two games and performed serviceably, playing alongside Matt Carle, Pronger's regular partner. He has an even plus/minus rating and two penalty minutes while averaging 14:39 of ice time per game.
The Flyers also recalled rookie Erik Gustafsson from AHL Adirondack. Gustafsson played his first NHL game Feb. 26 at Ottawa -- replacing Pronger in the lineup -- and had one shot and four penalty minutes in 16:06 of ice time. In 59 AHL games, Gustafsson leads the team with 31 assists and is second with 36 points.
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