MONTREAL - Even after Chris Pronger was shuttled back-and-forth to Pittsburgh yesterday to visit with renowned concussion experts at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Flyers needed more time to discuss their game plan for their future Hall of Fame defenseman.
Last night, the Flyers decided to keep their cards close to the vest.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren released a statement that the team will "have an update on Chris Pronger [today] once we have spoken to the doctors."
All eyes around the league will be focused on the Flyers today, as a handful of other players - including the NHL's leading goal-scorer, Milan Michalek, of Ottawa - were officially diagnosed with concussions yesterday.
Pronger, 37, has been out of action since Nov. 19, when he first began complaining of headaches, nausea and fatigue. Officially, Pronger is out "indefinitely."
The consensus thus far is that Pronger's mental fog - which the Flyers have not officially called a concussion, but rather "concussion-like symptoms" - could stem from the high-stick that he took to his right eye on Oct. 24 against Toronto. That injury kept him out six games. He returned and played five games before missing the last 10 with what the team originally called a virus.
It should be noted, however, that Pronger also took a tumble on Nov. 17 against Phoenix with 2:09 remaining when he was hit by the Coyotes' Martin Hanzal.
The hit was routine and clean, but Pronger went into the boards face first and immediately fell to the ice - a rarity for the sure and steady veteran.
Holmgren told the Daily News on Tuesday that Pronger first noticed these symptoms after the game against Phoenix but decided to play through them the next game in Winnipeg. They became unbearable after that. Pronger never mentioned a specific hit or cause to the team.
Hanzal's hit is not suggested to be the overall cause of Pronger's symptoms, but rather an example of more head trauma for a guy who was less than a month removed from the vicious high-stick that nearly cost him vision in one eye. Sometimes, the secondary trauma can be more damaging than the initial hit.
Now, with All-Stars like Sidney Crosby, Jeff Skinner, Joni Pitkanen, Michalek, Marc Staal and even Claude Giroux sidelined, Pronger's case will be an important league-wide study.
The Flyers did get some good news yesterday about one of their concussed players, as Brayden Schenn returned to practice for the first time in 8 days.
Schenn took part in the Flyers' 45-minute skate at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Schenn did not wear a yellow, "non-contact" jersey but coach Peter Laviolette said there were restrictions on his activity. There was no physical contact in drills yesterday, anyway.
"Before, there was a lot of fogginess when I tried to skate," Schenn explained. "That's when I decided to take a step back and realize something is wrong. Now, I'm going to stay patient and keep a close eye on it and make sure it gets better.
"Some days are better than others. The key is to get a ton of rest. Now that I'm getting back into the swing of things, it's even more important to get rest."
The concussion is Schenn's third injury since training camp. Schenn, 20, is probably a long-shot to return to the lineup tonight against the Canadiens but he could play as soon as this weekend against Boston or Monday in Colorado. He is still looking for his first NHL goal.
Less than 3 full weeks into a rehab assignment that was supposed to last 6 weeks, defenseman Andreas Lilja joined Schenn on the ice yesterday in Montreal as an unfamiliar face at practice. Lilja left the Nov. 25 Black Friday game against Montreal with a tricky high ankle sprain.
"I feel really good, the ankle feels really good," Lilja said. "I haven't battled yet, so as soon as I do a couple battle drills I'll really have an idea of how it is. But skating feels great. A lot of treatment really helps."
Since he was moved to the long-term injured list for salary-cap protection, Lilja is not eligible to return to the active roster until Wednesday in Dallas. Even if he was ready to return tonight, it would be hard to imagine Laviolette switching up from Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall in the middle of a six-game winning streak.
Yesterday, Lilja was not wearing any special padding or protection - other than tightly wrapped athletic tape on his ankle area - and was careful not to push it too hard to prevent further tearing in the area.
"They keep telling me that it will feel good and then hurt," Lilja said. "But I've felt really good for the last 3 days. We'll see what happens."
Claude Giroux (concussion) was given the day off yesterday and doctors will re-examine him today . . . Yesterday, Giroux was named Philadelphia's pro athlete of the year by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. He joins past Flyers winners Bob Clarke, Bernie Parent and Eric Lindros . . . Since the Flyers were shellacked by the Canadiens, 5-1, on Oct. 26, they have picked up at least one point in 16 of their last 20 games . . . The Flyers do not have HBO in their hotel in Montreal, so most were unable to watch last night's premiere of the "24/7 Road to the Winter Classic" reality series.