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(Abelimages/2010 Getty Images)
(Abelimages/2010 Getty Images)

Globe on Hockey

Pronger's absence <br>a big one for Flyers</br> Add to ...

Since the lockout, the playoffs and Chris Pronger have been synonymous, including three trips to the finals with three different teams (Edmonton in 2006, Anaheim in 2007 and Philadelphia last season).

The big Philadelphia Flyers defenceman will miss tonight's Game 1 against the Buffalo Sabres with a hand injury, a rare absence for someone who has played 85 postseason games over the past five seasons, an average of 17 games a year and more than any other player in that time frame.

Pronger's also played the most playoff minutes since the lockout, with 2,484 in all, an average of nearly 30 per game.

A quick look at the leaders in playoff games played since 2005-06:



Rank

Player

Team

GP

Pts

1

Chris Pronger

Phi

85

69

2

Brian Campbell

Chi

84

35

3

Dan Cleary

Det

82

33

4

Mikael Samuelsson

Van

82

51

5

Henrik Zetterberg

Det

81

86

6

Danny Briere

Phi

80

84

7

Nick Lidstrom

Det

80

59

8

Tomas Holmstrom

Det

78

38

9

Valtteri Filppula

Det

76

42

10

Johan Franzen

Det

76

71

Pronger had a trying season in the injury department, playing only 50 games, and he missed the last 16 regular season ones after having surgery on his troubled hand. The Flyers, meanwhile, went just 6-4-6 without him down the stretch, as they backed into the playoffs a little bit with only three wins in their last 11 games.

That's one of the main reasons the Sabres are being picked by many in the series, as Philadelphia's defence pairings minus Pronger of late have been Braydon Coburn with Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle with Andrej Meszaros, and Sean O'Donnell with Danny Syvret.

In last year's playoffs, Pronger played with Carle, Coburn and Timonen were the second pairing and coach Peter Laviolette almost never used his third pair.

That probably won't be an option this time around.

It's not known when Pronger will be able to return, but he hasn't been able to shoot pucks in practice for weeks. Getting back into the lineup may depend on how the Flyers fare in the first round.

If they're on the ropes, he could push to get back into the lineup quicker. If they jump out to a 2-0 series lead before the series heads to Buffalo on Monday, that urgency may not be there.

Either way, they'll miss him for as long as he's out, especially when the goaltending matchup between last year's Vezina winner Ryan Miller and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky is one many expect to decide the series.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

 

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