Surprise, surprise: Chris Pronger visits Flyers at practice facility

His nameplate is no longer in the Flyers’ dressing room, but he’s been in the back of the players’ minds all season. Yesterday, they got a visit from captain Chris Pronger, who is still dealing with post-concussion syndrome and was shut down for the season on Dec. 15.

The 36-year-old defenseman stopped by the team’s practice facility for 90 minutes to see his teammates. He didn’t skate, didn’t work out, just came to see the gang.

“I saw him this morning, had a little visit with him,” winger Scott Hartnell said. “He’s growing his playoff beard a little early, got a little scruff on him. Looked a little down, not gonna lie, but to see him at the rink was good.”

Pronger wasn’t feeling good enough to go to Hartnell’s Super Bowl party, but was finally able to string together a couple of good days and get to the practice facility. He left before practice started and didn’t talk to the few media who arrived early.

“You get from our trainers that he’d had two good days and three bad ones, so I just tried to see what’s up and just talk to him,” Hartnell said.

“I think he was more concerned with what was going on with the team and how we’ve been doing playing with Bryz and how our D corps has been rotating,” said Pronger’s defensive partner Matt Carle. “I think he’s more concerned with us than he is with himself, it seems like. It was good to see him today.”

It’s a good sign that Pronger was able to leave his house, but don’t expect a comeback anytime soon. After all, he didn’t work out and hasn’t been on the ice since Nov. 19.

“We all know and understand he’s been having a hard time and we all would if we were in his situation,” said Danny Briere who just recovered from a concussion himself. “It’s tough to be away from the game that long. We’re all competitors. We want to be out there. It was nice for us to see him walk around here, smiling and chatting with the guys.”

3 things to watch

1. CARLE LOVES PHILLY. Defenseman Matt Carle is an impending unrestricted free agent and watching other defensemen, like Tim Gleason and John-Michael Liles, sign extensions. He’s got those numbers in the back of his head, but says he wants to stay in Philadelphia.

“My wife and I love it here,” Carle said. “Looking back on it, getting traded here and stuff, it was a huge blessing in disguise and you’d like to continue that, especially in this organization. It’s a place where no matter what, they’re gonna be making moves to be a contender and you want to be a part of an organization that’s in tune to that.”

2. JVR STILL RECOVERING. James van Riemsdyk participated in practice again, but doesn’t appear any closer to returning to the lineup. He has missed 11 games with a concussion. Both Jaromir Jagr and Kimmo Timonen were given maintenance days and did not partake in Wednesday’s practice.

3. TOUGH STRETCH. On Thursday, the Flyers will start another stretch of three games in four days — all against playoff competition. The Maple Leafs, Thursday’s opponent, are seventh in the Eastern Conference. The New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings are the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences.

“This is tight hockey this time of year,” Scott Hartnell said. “It seems like everyone buckles down. It’s not like there’s big leads or high scoring. It’s defense. It seems like everyone’s blocking more shots. Everyone’s more disciplined and definitely we want to keep those guys off the power play and play hard on ‘em 5-on-5.”

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