Chris Pronger wouldnt give himself a grade.
I felt OK, the Flyers captain said after his first preseason game a 2-1 win over New Jersey on Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center. The first period was pretty fast, a good way to kind of get back into the flow.
Pronger logged 19:35 of ice time with a power-play assist. It was his first competitive action since last Aprils playoffs.
Sure, he looked a tad rusty at the start. Yet, by the end, Pronger seemed to have warmed up to the task, which was entirely expected for a player rehabbing from two off-season surgeries.
As the game progressed, his timing was better, setting up Danny Briere for a great scoring chance that was denied by Devils goalie Marty Brodeur in the second period.
You dont read much into preseason hockey with lifelong veterans such as Pronger, but he wanted some real games instead of simulated action in practice. He got it.
Pronger seemed to have his edge back by late in the second period, pushing off with the Devils Stephane Veilleux, and drawing a roughing penalty. Incidentally, during that standoff in front of the Flyers net, Wayne Simmonds came to the captains aid.
Not that Pronger needs anyone to step in for him, but one thing we have seen in preseason is that this group of players seems to have each others' back.
The first period there wasnt a lot of flow, Pronger said. Pretty choppy, but quick as the game settled in, a little bit more structure. You feel a little more comfortable and youre able to do a few more things.
Get into a few scrums, get into a few pushing matches, kind of see how you feel and go from there.
Pronger also picked up his first point of the preseason, an assist of Simmonds power-play goal that period.
You know what, I just tried to get in front of the net because that's my job, Simmonds said. We worked the puck around well. G (Claude Giroux) found a seam and he put it on net and I was able to get the rebound and put it in the net.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said it was important to get Pronger some live action.
I dont think its one of those situations where he has to be there and hes not trying to prove anything, he said. Hes played a lot of games in his career. If he just walked into the Boston game (next week), Im sure wed get a great effort out of him
Theres also something to be said for coming back and finding your timing and getting into the live battles and finding your game. It was good he wanted to get back and get into the game.
Now Pronger said he would not play in Saturdays exhibition finale at Newark.
Let my headstone read that I won't go to Newark for a preseason game, he quipped.
Pronger aside, what was equally important was Flyer goalie Ilya Bryzgalov looked much sharper in his third start than his previous two outings.
Did we just hear a collective sigh of relief from the Flyer fan base?
How was it? Better or not? Bryzgalov asked a reporter.
OK, you got the answer, he replied. I feel better and better every day. Im not 60 years old. Im 31.
Laviolette agreed that Bryzgalov took some needed steps.
I thought he looked sharp tonight, Laviolette said. There were some tough goals that went in on him first couple of games. Redirects. Tonight he was sharp.
Bryzgalov seemed to see the puck better. He was lightning quick with his glove hand, making a couple of superb saves on Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise.
No, the puck just hit me, he kidded about the snare on Kovalchuk.
Overall, he turned aside 17 of 18 shots, leaving the game with 10:30 left in the second period so that backup Sergei Bobrovsky, who has actually looked better in camp, could get some action. Bob had played in two previous games, as well.
Bob was a perfect 13 for 13 in net,
Now Brodeur, who turns 40 in May, had some pretty fine saves on Jaromir Jagr and Giroux, among others. Brodeurs glove hand looked sharp, as did his reflexes in net. He finished with 25 saves.
The Flyers showed Brodeur a good amount of rubber in this game.
The winning power-play goal saw Jagr one-time a laser pass from Giroux late in the final period to break a 1-1 tie. Jagr rammed the puck past Brodeur so hard his stick shattered.
I broke it over the post, Jagr said. It was a hard pass I was hiding behind the net. The stick was just there. It was a great pass. He was the only one who saw me. I was hiding and I just showed the stick. I told you guys he has different passes. You got to be ready.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com.