-- Philadelphia Flyers
All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger
certainly knows how to bring drama to an otherwise typical off-day.
Pronger took part in a brisk, 50-minute skate about an hour before his teammates took the ice Tuesday morning here at Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone, but did not take part in the full team workout, leaving lingering questions about his status for Game 1 of the team's Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres
(7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, VERSUS).
However, those questions could be answered Wednesday.
"They might," he told reporters. "They might change every day. Every day is a new day. Every day you feel better, some days you have setbacks, other days you have steps forward. Just the nature of the beast.
"Maybe you should come tomorrow. Come to practice tomorrow and we'll see."
Coach Peter Laviolette
said he's focusing solely on the players he has at his disposal and nothing else.
"Certainly you'd like to have your pieces in there, but we don't," he said. "At this point, today in practice, he wasn't there, so we prepare and plan to play Buffalo today with the guys we have on the ice. That changes daily and I think we have a lot of confidence. We dealt with injuries last year and all this year. Most teams do. They (Buffalo) are missing some players, too. Injuries are a part of the game. It's a cliché, but it's an opportunity for other guys to step up, and I think other guys have stepped up."
Pronger was coy when asked about his potential playing status for Game 1, or at any point in the first round. When asked if he was confident about playing in the series, his only response was, "Very." When pressed about Game 1 in particular, he said, "I guess you'll have to wait to find out."
Pronger skated Tuesday with fellow injured defensemen Matt Walker
and Oskars Bartulis
, as well as Ian Laperriere
, who will serve as an assistant coach working with the playoff scratches.
The skating drills were intense, but while Pronger had a stick in his hands, he did not touch a puck. However, it's unlikely the 17-year veteran has forgotten what to do with a stick in his hands.
"He's played (1,154) games in the NHL, (170) playoff games," Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren
said. "I think we can give him the benefit of the doubt that he'll be fine in that regard."
Holmgren, who said the team continues to list Pronger as day-to-day, agreed with Pronger that Wednesday could be an entirely different story.
"Tomorrow's a new day," he said. "He was better today than he was (Monday)."
When asked if Wednesday's practice would be a benchmark for Pronger's recovery, Holmgren said, "I'll wait until (Wednesday) to comment on that."
Game 1 on Thursday will mark exactly one month since Pronger had surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand. At the time, the Flyers predicted a recovery time of 3-4 weeks.
Pronger originally hurt the hand Feb. 24 against the New York Islanders
when he was hit by a shot. He missed one game, returned to play four games, but re-injured his hand during a win against the Edmonton Oilers
on March 8. He hasn't played since.
Knee, foot and hand injuries limited Pronger to just 50 games this season, the fewest he played since 2002-03, when he was limited to just five games due to a knee injury. He had 4 goals and 25 points, while leading the team with an average of 22:29 per game of ice time.
He was a huge piece of the Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, leading all players with an average ice time of 29:03 per game, and his 18 points led all defensemen.
While this latest injury cost him the last 16 games of the regular season, he's been skating fairly regularly in his down time, including each of the last seven days. So could being able to keep his endurance up while not suffering a month's worth of bumps and bruises be a blessing disguise once he does return to the lineup?
"I don't know," Pronger said. "We'll see. It's like anything else -- when it works out, everybody's excited about it; when it doesn't, you can point fingers and look at different things. I guess we're going to let it play out and see how it does work."
If Pronger can't go in Game 1, the Flyers do have options: Danny Syvret
, who played the final four regular-season games; Walker, who cleared waivers earlier Tuesday; and veteran Nick Boynton
"I think it's going to depend on the matchups," Holmgren said. "I haven't talked to the coaches yet on what they're going to do in that regard, but Danny has played well the last couple games. I thought he played a good game in Buffalo the last time we were there."
Holmgren added Walker has been cleared physically to play; he's had surgeries on both hips and a knee this season, limiting him to just 15 games between the NHL and AHL.
"Matt hasn't played a lot," Holmgren said. "He's an option. Physically he's fine. He hasn't played, that's all. We're trying to get him up to speed with lots of hard work in practice."
The Flyers have experience playing without Pronger, going 16-9-7 in his absence. However, just because they've been successful without him doesn't mean they don't want him back as soon as possible.
"We'll welcome him back with open arms, for sure," Scott Hartnell
told NHL.com. "It's definitely a different game back there with him not in the lineup. I think he instills some fear in the opponents. We've had to adapt without him. Hopefully this round, second round, third round, when he comes back, we'll welcome him back."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK