Oh, sure, the Flyers will hit a point in the next 4-6 weeks where they'll say, "Boy we really wish we had Chris Pronger right about now," but Saturday wasn't one of those games.
Instead, the Flyers downed the New York Rangers 4-1 behind some pretty solid defensive play.
Andrej Meszaros jumped into Pronger's spot with Matt Carle and the duo didn't miss a beat.
Replacing Meszaros on the back end of the defensive rotation was Oskars Bartulis, playing for the first time since Nov. 1. He was paired with Sean O'Donnell and the duo played well.
The Flyers defensive depth has been a huge part of their resurgence to the top of the NHL standings, and Meszaros and O'Donnell have been a bit unheralded in what they've done for the team.
As for Bartulis, he's been a forgotten man, playing in just his fourth game of the season Saturday, with his other appearances coming when Pronger missed the opening two games of the season recovering from knee surgery and Meszaros served a one-game suspension.
“I thought Oskars [Bartulis] did a terrific job," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He came in and was very aggressive in our system. He played a strong game for us after not playing for a long time. That’s not an easy thing to do. It goes back to what we were talking about being out of the game and getting back in there and all of the sudden everything is live. Games are, but if you’ve been practicing for awhile you don’t get that, but he came in and did a terrific job.
"I thought Mesz [Andrej Meszaros] jumped in and took extra minutes, he played. I thought defensively we were pretty tight. I thought there was a shift or two that I didn’t like, but other than that defensively I thought we were tight.”
Here's the transcript of the Pronger conference call from this morning. I'm betting that unless Pronger is really needed, this recovery will be closer to six weeks than four.
However, if things go awry, we might see him before the All-Star break. He next goes to the doc on Jan. 5.
Flyers Defenseman Chris Pronger conference call transcript:
Q: Can you tell us a little about what they had to do and how you’re feeling?
“I’m feeling all right. I was moving my foot right after they did the surgery; they put a couple screws in the bone to help strengthen it and hopefully allow it to heal faster and give it, as I said, the strength it’s going to need to recover hopefully in a timely fashion.”
Q: Chris, can you tell us how it happened? You blocked a shot. Who took the shot and did you think it was broken right away?
“I don’t know who took it. It might have been [Brian] Gionta, I’m not positive. I kind of remember the play. It was in the midst of my three and a half minute shift toward the end of the second period and I think it was maybe five minutes left in the period. I think it was half way through that shift; I happened to be on one knee in front and the shot came and just hit me in the right spot on my foot, right on my laces on the lace holes; and I think, probably it broke because I wasn’t standing on my skate or applying any pressure on my foot. You know, it just hit me in the right spot and for whatever reason this is what happened.”
Q: You’ve been blocking shots for a long time in your career. Have you ever had anything similar to this, like this happen before? If so, what’s the recovery like for you?
“I had, not to this extent, but a similar injury like this in Anaheim but to my other foot almost in the small spot on a very similar play. It wasn’t a very hard shot, it was right off the draw, a little wrist shot. I went to block the shot, I picked up my skate and opened my foot and it hit me almost on the exact same spot as this one and that broke my foot as well. It hits you in the right spot on your boot.”
Q: How long did you miss with that broken foot?
“It was obviously a little bit different, I didn’t need screws or anything like that. Maybe three and a half weeks. It was a different break; this one I think was a worse break so the timeframe is obviously different.”
Q: Were there other options; I know when [Flyers General Manager] Paul [Holmgren] talked to us he wanted to explore other options to see if surgery was necessary. Were there a couple different options for you?
“Well I needed to meet with the foot specialist and see what he thought. I went in Thursday morning and got a CT scan and a proper x-ray. He was in surgery all day so he didn’t get a chance to see it until later that evening and kind of went though it and had his thoughts and made his notes. We spoke Friday morning to kind of go over it and talk about the break and what he thought would be necessary in order to keep it, not only strong, but allow it the best possible chance to heal properly and to get my back on the ice.”
Q: Jeff Carter had a similar injury last year in the playoffs. He said he came back after four and a half weeks and he wasn’t close to being 100%. Based on that would you err on the side of caution and drag it out to six weeks or seven weeks to make sure you’re 100%?
“I don’t know everybody’s different. His injury, while you may think it’s similar because it’s to the foot, it’s different. He had a plate put in and I had a couple screws. It may sound like it’s not that big of a deal but sometimes it can be. I think it’s a little too easy to compare this, that and the other thing. You’ve got to remember, this happened in the middle of a playoff run which changes the dynamics and dimension of injuries and what you’re willing to put yourself through to get back. Obviously, with the timeframe of the year and where we’re at, we’ve got the luxury of the All-Star break coming up right on the heels of when I could possibly return. There’s a lot of different variables coming in, we’ll just see how it heals and how it progresses.”
Q: Did you weigh the fact that you only have 11 games in the next month as a good sign? Had this been April would you have played through it depending on where you were in the standings?
“Well like I said it depends on a lot of different things. [Carter’s] situation was a little different because we were in the middle of the playoffs. You do what you can to help your team win and you come back. Obviously four and half weeks you’re not 100%. I don’t really know the extent of his foot injury, what he broke and what they had to fix. Everybody’s going to be different, everybody’s body heals differently. We’ll wait and see and see where…I’ve got to get checked up again on January 5th and then again two weeks after that to see how it’s healing and see how it’s calcifying.. I don’t think there’s any easy way for me to tell you when I’ll be back and how it’s going to heal. I don’t have a crystal ball, so it’s kind of a wait-and-see approach. We kind of take it with each kind of, I guess analysis, and each appointment after that.”
Q: Have you broken that foot before?
“Not that spot, no.”
Q: Have you broken it in another spot before?
“I don’t know, to be honest with you because sometimes, you know if you break the outside of your foot or you break your toe or something you just put it in an ice bucket and you keep playing. To be honest with you, I don’t know. I haven’t broken it over there where it’s…obviously when you start with your big toe and that ball of your foot and that side of your feet are such a big part of skating, walking and power movements. The outside of your foot is a lot easier to break and get away with. Most other break would come on my left foot but I wouldn’t be surprised if I went back and looked at medical records and to see that maybe I did break it or maybe it was broken and we didn’t do anything about it, I don’t know. I couldn’t give you a proper answer on that. ”
Q: Chris do you think playing in the All-Star game is a long shot? Or is that something you’ve totally ruled out?
“I’m not too worried about the All-Star game.”
Q: Considering the defensive staff that you have on this team, are you pretty confident that the guys that are there can step up their minutes and play some decent hockey?
“I am. I think this is one of the exact reasons and instances why we made the moves we did in the offseason – to have more depth through our defense corps. When Homer [Holmgren] made these moves he talked about our top four defenseman missed a total of two or four games, something silly that most teams don’t go through. It was just a matter of time; one of us was going to get hurt at some point. It’s a long stretch on last year and a lot of minutes and luck. We got lucky last year. We got guys that were a little banged up but they were able to play through. At some point you’re going to get injuries where you’re not going to be able to play through them. This was one of those cases. I think you’ve seen now, with the depth on our backend, for the most part we’re rolling three sets of [defense]. I might be the high guy with like 22 or 23 minutes and the low guy might be at 17 or 18 minutes. We’re getting a pretty good roll of the bench and that only helps you when you get guys into situations and keeps them sharp. This is an opportunity for Oskars [Bartulis] to get into the lineup and play and get back into the rhythm of playing. He’s obviously sat out a long time and it’s not easy.”
Q: How big are your feet?
“They’re big enough. How’s that for an answer?” (laughs)