Chris Pronger to have surgery, will be back for playoffs; Erik Gustafsson recalled

TORONTO CANADA - DECEMBER 9: Chris Pronger #20 and Matt Carle #25 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates Chris Pronger goal during game action at the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs December 9 2010 in Toronto Ontario Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Chris Pronger is having surgery to repair his ailing right hand, according to the team. He'll miss three-to-four weeks after he undergoes a procedure in Cleveland on Tuesday morning. As if he's not in bad enough shape already, they're making him go to Cleveland? Sucks.

Erik Gustafsson has been recalled from the Adirondack Phantoms to serve as a seventh defenseman according to Frank Seravalli of the Daily News, and maybe that could create a battle at that spot between he and Nick Boynton. We'll see.

Via Paul Holmgren:

"Chris had a CT scan on his right hand on Sunday and a small fracture was discovered," Holmgren said.  "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."    

Before you panic a little more, four weeks still gets him back in time for the first game of the playoffs, which begin April 13 at the earliest. Three weeks would put Pronger's return around the 5th of April, at which point there are three games left in the regular season. He should miss no more than 14 games with this surgery.

Pronger suffered the injury on February 24 against the New York Islanders. Despite repeated attempts to play through it and repeated assurances from both he and Holmgren that the hand was in good shape, it seems pretty obvious to me that wasn't the case. A fracture doesn't just pop up out of nowhere, right?

I assume it's possible that he injured the hand further in the four games he played since the injury, but I'm leaning towards the "he injured it, tried to play through it, didn't work" theory.

It's the second surgery of the season for Pronger, who missed 13 games in December and January after knee surgery. The Flyers survived just fine without him then, and perhaps this is the wake up call they can use to bump their play up a level as the stretch run keeps on. The defense stepped up before in Pronger's absence and there's no reason they can't do it again. 

At the same time, Pronger plays less minutes and gets more rest as the playoffs approach. Things could be much worse. Remember, he'll be back for the playoffs.

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