Chris Pronger is out of action yet again.
Injuries kept the current Philadelphia Flyers captain out of the final three games of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs after he missed 32 regular season games.
Since returning from the eye injury, Pronger said he's had knee pain. An unknown illness kept him out of the lineup initially, but he is now out due to his decision to have knee surgery.
Pronger told Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer he should be back in three to six weeks.
The Flyers need that time frame to be as short as possible.
Since the Flyers acquired Pronger before the 2009-10 season, the veteran has been a key role player off the ice.
Even with Mike Richards wearing the "C" Pronger was seen as one of the team's leaders. The 37-year-old's desire to win has transformed the team to a winner.
After the Flyers completed their comeback against the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, winning Game 7 and the series after trailing 3-0 in both, Pronger said "It's nice to be part of history."
However, he went on to say that nobody in the locker room is satisfied. "We still need eight more wins to get to where we want to be."
Pronger understands the goal of the franchise and does not settle for less.
Pronger is a 6'6" 220-pound behemoth that frightens the opposition.
His size allows him to hit hard and play a very physical game. Forwards attempting to get positioning in front of a net that Pronger is defending will result in that player taking a beating.
Pronger will push, shove, slash and cross-check that player to no end.
Pronger has only one fighting major since the start of the 2008-09 season, but he does not need to drop the gloves to intimidate opponents.
How many times has someone legitimately attempted to fight Pronger since then? It seems that game after game, playing that physical style would result in someone getting fed up enough to challenge him.
It just does not happen.
Pronger is two shy of recording his 700th career point. Having played in 1167 games, he is seventh among active players with 541 assists.
Over 82 games, Pronger's numbers this season average out to a total of 75 points. Comparatively, last season's Norris Trophy winner, Niklas Lidstrom, had 62 points.
One of the most glaringly obvious drawbacks to Pronger's absence is the lack of power play efficiency.
Since Pronger's arrival, Philadelphia's power play scores on 19.9 percent of opportunities when he plays. Without him, the powe rplay success rate drops to 12.3.
A power play percentage of 19.9 would be the sixth-best in the NHL right now.
A power play percentage of 12.3 would be the sixth-worst in the NHL right now.
In addition to the myriad of points and goals produced by Pronger, he brings Norris-winning defensive abilities to the lineup as well.
Pronger is always matched up against the opposing team's top lines. This was extremely clear in the 2010 Stanley Cup finals, when he averaged 29:45 of ice time while going against stars such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
Without Pronger, the Flyers give up 3.06 goals per game. With him, that total drops to 2.64.
Just as the Flyers need Pronger's offensive skills with the man advantage, they need his defensive abilities when they are down a man.
Without him, the penalty kill performs at 80.4 percent efficiency, a number that would have them ranked seventh-worst in the NHL.
When Chris Pronger is healthy, the defense consists of him, Andrej Meszaros, Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle and Andreas Lilja.
Lilja, No. 6 on the depth chart, is a liability on the ice. His poor defensive skills and nonexistent offensive contributions limit him to under 13 minutes of ice time; an amount lower than even third line forwards.
Without Pronger, the Flyers have to add in another defenseman—picking from Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Kevin Marshall or Matt Walker.
Regardless, the team puts Lilja up a spot and must dress an AHL player at the NHL level.
In addition to the effect Pronger's absence has on the team's defensive depth, his departure from the lineup results in mixed up line pairings.
The usual pairings are Pronger with Carle, Timonen with Coburn, and Meszaros with Lilja.
When Pronger went down, Carle was matched with Lilja, and Meszaros was paired with Bourdon.
Now that Lilja is injured as well, Carle is matched with Meszaros and the two rookies (Bourdon and Marshall) are together.
The switching of regular partners puts a strain on the defensemen, who will be uncomfortable playing with new linemates.
This season Chris Pronger is averaging 24 minutes in ice time (not counting the October 24 game in which he sustained the eye injury).
The next highest average time-on-ice is 22, shared by Matt Carle and Kimmo Timonen. Pronger leads the team by an entire two minutes per game.
With Pronger gone, that ice time load is going to have to be made up for by the other defensemen.
What makes the situation even worse is Lilja's absence. Bourdon (12:45) plays roughly the same ice time as Lilja (12:47), but Marshall plays an average of just 9:32 per game.
Essentially, the Flyers have Marshall replacing Pronger, leaving 14:28 to be split up among Carle, Timonen, Coburn and Meszaros; roughly 3:37 for each player.
An extra three minutes of ice time each game is going to create tired legs on the Flyers' blue line.
Since Chris Pronger joined the Flyers, the team has played 118 games. With him, they have 41 wins and 25 total losses. Without him they have 25 wins and 27 total losses.
The win percentage with him: 62 percent—the same as a 50-game winning team.
Without him: 48 percent—the same as a 39-win team.
Pronger's effect on the team can be broken down into each of the individual areas affected by his presence. The totality of these glaring differences is the simple result of the games played.
With him, the team plays like one of the NHL's best.
Without him, they've played like a borderline playoff team.
Jason Sapunka is a Featured Columnist for the Philadelphia Flyers.