Better safe than sorry.
Edmonton Oilers defenceman Chris Pronger said yesterday he expects he'll be on the ice for practice tomorrow and ready to play against the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday after sitting out Friday's 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames with a swollen and sore right knee.
"I'll play Tuesday," Pronger said. "I've seen a dramatic drop-off in swelling from two days ago to yesterday to today. It's gone down quite a bit already. As long as it keeps going that way, it won't be an issue."
Pronger, 31, tweaked the knee against the Minnesota Wild last Wednesday when he fell and banged it on the ice. It was a rather nondescript play, but Pronger's shin pad shifted and the knee took the brunt of the blow.
A more significant factor, though, is that Pronger had surgery on the same knee to repair a torn anterior-cruciate ligament during the summer of 2002. Given that, Pronger and the Oilers medical staff decided it was best to be cautious. He was scratched in Cowtown after testing the knee during the pr-game skate.
"It's nothing major. We just didn't want to take a chance," said head athletic therapist Ken Lowe. "We're maybe being a little more protective because it's a knee he had surgery on a number of years ago.
"There's a lot of hockey left to play. We didn't want him getting knocked down and falling on it and aggravating it. We'll reassess it Monday and see where we stand."
Pronger took treatment on the knee with Lowe at Rexall Place yesterday and will have another session today.
Barring anything unforeseen - continued discomfort or swelling - Pronger expects he'll be good to go when the Avs come calling.
"I was lacking some range of motion and strength, so we were careful with it," he said. "We didn't want to do anything that might put me in an awkward position, especially with us having three or four days off between games right now."
BIG MINUTES FOR BERGY
With Pronger on the shelf, the rest of the Oilers blue-line corps picked up his minutes against the Flames.
Marc-Andre Bergeron saw the biggest increase in ice time, playing a season-high 30:35, with 21 minutes of that coming at even strength and 7:53 spent on the power play, a big part of Pronger's usual ice time.
Steve Staios, who was paired with Bergeron, played 27:38, while captain Jason Smith played 27:34 in tandem with Igor Ulanov. The duo of Cory Cross and rookie Dan Syvret saw limited duty, with Cross playing 12:28 and Syvret getting just 4:59.
MIKE'S THE MAN
Mike Morrison, who won his fourth straight game with Friday's shootout decision in Calgary, has stopped 115 of the 122 shots he's faced for a saves-percentage of .939, the best percentage in the entire league going into action last night.
Morrison's 1.48 goals-against average also topped all NHL goaltenders, almost half-goal better than the 1.92 mark of Ottawa's Dominik Hasek.
AROUND THE RINK ... Michael Peca, relegated to the fourth line in Calgary, had a rare off-night in the faceoff circles, going 4-8 in 12 draws ... Jarret Stoll led the way with a 13-9 mark and the Oilers as a team dominated the dot with a mark of 36-25 ... With a 4-1 record in their last five games and having played seven games in 13 nights, coach Craig MacTavish gave the Oilers the weekend off, with the next practice scheduled for tomorrow in preparation for Tuesday's visit by the Avalanche.