Pronger assumes control

Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger is slowing working his way back from a series of injuries...

Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger is slowing working his way back from a series of injuries that kept him off the ice last season. The veteran blueliner will be looked to for leadership this season. (File photo)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:43 AM ET

LONDON, ONT. - The Philadelphia Flyers are moving onto a new chapter in their history.

But they are looking at an old veteran to get them through it.

Old is a relative term and at 37-year-old Chris Pronger certainly doesn't play like he's old. But the Flyers will be relying on all of Pronger's experience to settle a team that underwent massive change in the off-season and is looking to get back to where they were two years ago - the Stanley Cup final.

Londoners will get a chance to get an up-close-and-personal view of the Flyers Thursday when they come to the John Labatt Centre to play another team going through a rebuild - the Detroit Red Wings.

Fans won't get a chance to see Pronger play. The new captain of the Flyers is slowly working back into shape after a series of injuries - including a back injury - sidelined him last year.

He did skate with his teammates for the first time Monday in a non-contact situation.

"It's been a long process. It felt good being out there, handling the puck, skating around," Pronger said from Philadelphia. "But it isn't how today feels, it's how it's going to feel tomorrow and the day after. Hopefully it will react well."

Philadelphia made the biggest news in the off-season.

The Flyers traded captain Mike Richards and Londoner and top-scorer Jeff Carter. It took a while but things have settled since the big changes.

"We have a different look to our team and a different feel," Pronger said. "We got a little bit younger up front. We have our whole defence back ... and we got a great goaltender."

The big money signing was Ilya Bryzgalov. It should stabilize a position that's created issues with the Flyers last year. The trades and signings bring a number of new faces into the Flyer fold.

Included are veteran Jaromir Jagr, Andreas Lilja, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Maxime Talbot and Jakub Voracek.

"Up front, we're looking for exciting physical play with a lot of skating, a lot of up tempo play. I think we're going to be a very exciting team up front," he said.

There was a great deal of speculation about why the Flyers would trade two of their top players, players supposedly in the prime of their careers.

"It can be two-fold," Pronger said. "It can be a wake-up call. This is a business. This is the game of hockey. Things like this happen. Trades and movement are a big part of it. Never be complacent. Secondly, a lot of ice time has opened up and a lot of positions are open for young guys to come in and get jobs."

One of those with that potential is first-round pick Sean Couturier. He was acquired with Columbus's first round choice the Flyers got as part of the Carter deal. Another player to watch is James van Riemsdyk who scored seven goals in 11 playoff games.

"Everyone is pretty excited about the season," Pronger said. "Everyone was disappointed with how the season ended last year. We got swept by Boston and that's never an easy feeling. With the moves we made and the exit in the playoffs, guys came ready. They came in great shape."

As for Pronger . . .

"It's all about how my body is going to react," he said "As I get more and more into practice and I get banged around physically it will test your body and ultimately I'll know if I am ready to go.

"The good thing is with three pairs of defenceman we'll all get 20, 21 minutes, short of injuries and matchups and that will be good for me."


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