Philadelphia Flyers Chris Pronger, top, smothers Montreal Canadiens' Mathieu Darche during second period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes) Graham Hughes

Cliff Lee, Michael Vick and the NHL-leading Flyers make it tough for Philadelphia fans to be anything but optimistic these days.

Accordingly, there seems to be a bright side to Friday's news that Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger will have surgery for a broken foot.

Pronger is a great player, the team's MVP. In a perfect world, the entire team would stay healthy all season.

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But if someone has to miss a month, this is one of the best-case scenarios.

First, Pronger's injury comes right before the Flyers have eight days off next week - that's a huge chunk of his four- to six-week recovery time during which he won't even miss a game.

Even if Pronger is out until February, the Flyers are going to make the playoffs, likely as a high seed. They have the depth to minimize the impact of his absence for these 4-6 weeks, and there will still be 32 regular-season games left in February, March and April.

Individually, Pronger could use the rest. He turned 36 in October and, while the Flyers' depth this season has allowed coach Peter Laviolette to reduce Pronger's ice time, those minutes will go way up in the playoffs. Having a fresher Pronger should be a good thing.

And the Flyers can count on Pronger to come back strong. With a young player such as James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux or Ville Leino, there might be the concern that they would struggle to get back to top form. But Pronger is a future Hall of Famer, one of the best ever to play the game. He'll be on top of his game when he comes back.

In the meantime, Oskars Bartulis will fill Pronger's spot in the lineup, with all the other defensemen taking on more responsibility. This shouldn't be a problem because the third pairing of Sean O'Donnell and Andrej Meszaros has been among the league's best this season, and Bartulis is a solid young player who can fill the role of No. 6 defenseman.

The Flyers' offseason moves were geared toward depth, and that will pay off now. Chris Pronger will be missed, but not as much as a player of his caliber on most other teams would be. And a fresh Pronger will be ready to lead the Flyers on another deep playoff run.


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