Pronger may require back surgery

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Calling it "the year from hell," Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger could learn in a matter of days if he's going to need his fourth surgery in 10 months.


Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren told that Pronger could have a bulging or herniated disc in his lower back. The back injury, along with a hamstring pull, is what sidelined Pronger for the final three games of the Flyers' conference semifinal series against the Boston Bruins.


On a conference call with reporters Monday, Pronger, 36, admitted back surgery is a possibility.


"I've got to see what the doctors say, what their recommendations are and weigh the pros and cons to whatever it is we decide to do," he said.


Pronger said he wasn't sure exactly when he suffered the injury, but said he started to feel problems during Game 7 of the first round series against the Buffalo Sabres. He did admit back surgery is a possibility.


That was Pronger's second game back from a broken hand that had sidelined him for seven weeks. It also marked a big jump in ice time; Pronger played just 4:33, all on the power play, in Game 6, but saw his ice time climb to 17:27 in Game 7, and then he played 19:45 in Game 1 against the Bruins.


However, Pronger said the extra work was not the cause of his latest issue.


"The amount of ice time I got has nothing to do with the injury," he said.


Pronger also said his surgically repaired right hand never was 100 percent, but was healthy enough for him to play. He originally broke the hand blocking a shot Feb. 26, missed one game, returned for four games, and then re-injured it March 8. He had surgery a week later, with the expectation that he would return prior to the end of the regular season. He started shooting pucks about two weeks after the surgery, but suffered a setback that sidelined him until Game 6 against the Sabres. In three playoff games, he had an assist, four penalty minutes and a minus-3 rating.


"My hand is still at the stage where I need to continue to work at it and get stronger," Pronger said. "It was to the point I could play, but I still don't have a lot of grip strength, still don't have full range of motion and all the rest of that. It's still where it was, I just need to continue to … once they figure out the next step for my other injury, I have to continue to work on it and stay on top of it and rehab with that. So come summertime when I can begin my training program for the next season that there's no issues."


Pronger's absence from the lineup was a major issue for the Flyers down the stretch and into the postseason. They won just six of their final 16 games without him and fell behind the Sabres 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs. There's no coincidence Pronger's return for Games 6 and 7 had a major impact on that series.


"I really felt like we missed Chris in the Boston series," Laviolette said. "You saw the damage (Boston's Zdeno) Chara was doing at the other end of the ice and the difficulties we had. Let's be honest -- we didn't generate what we needed to generate in the offensive zone and (Pronger) plays half the game. You remove Chris from a scenario like that … you're taking an elite defenseman who plays half the game out of your lineup."


If Pronger does need back surgery, it would follow operations on his right knee in August, his right foot in January and his hand in March. Those injuries conspired to limit him to just 50 regular-season games, the fewest he's played since the 2002-03 season, when he played only five games due to knee and wrist surgeries.


"Started this season with a surgery and I'm going to end it … who knows whether I got another one or not," Pronger said. "From an injury standpoint it's been the toughest year. You start to get back, start feeling good and another one crops up. Hopefully a good summer of training and rehab on the various issues I've had this year will rectify all those and I can come into camp next year in a lot better shape, a lot healthier and able to hopefully play all 82 games next year."


Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK