ON TUESDAY, Chris Pronger told the assembled media to watch intently at yesterday's practice to check on his status.
The only problem was that Pronger could not be found. That's because he wasn't on the ice with his teammates for the 16th day in a row.
As such, multiple organizational sources have confirmed to the Daily News that Pronger will sit out tonight's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Buffalo with the same right hand injury that was surgically repaired on March 15.
Pronger's original timetable for return after surgery was 3 to 4 weeks.
Yesterday, Pronger gave and received light passes in a skate with some of the Flyers' "black aces," or call-ups from AHL Adirondack who skate separate from the team and do not travel to road games. Pronger did not do much stickhandling and he did not take any shots on goal.
Officially, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Pronger would be a game-time decision tonight. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Pronger isn't going to go from no stickhandling and no shooting to ripping pucks from the point in the playoffs overnight.
With Pronger out of the lineup, Danny Syvret is expected to take his place on defense. Syvret also worked briefly with the second power-play unit earlier in the week, where he could play alongside Kimmo Timonen if Peter Laviolette decides to use James van Riemsdyk elsewhere.
Syvret played in all four of the Flyers' final games of the regular season, beating out veteran Nick Boynton for the sixth defensive spot. Tonight would be Syvret's NHL playoff debut.
"If I'm playing, I'll be ready," Syvret said after practice yesterday. "I felt pretty confident in those four games. I felt like when I came up, I played well. I think my self-confidence was pretty high, so if I do play, I think I'll be able to carry that into it."
Another big name not on the ice yesterday was captain Mike Richards. Laviolette said he was aware that Richards would not be at practice but referred "all injuries" to Holmgren for comment.
Holmgren issued a statement through the team's public relations staff that all players, aside from Pronger, were healthy.
But that didn't accurately explain Richards' curious absence, which was later revealed, through a text message from Richards to Comcast SportsNet's Lisa Hillary, to be a minor head cold.
Richards will be ready to play in Game 1.
If there is one thing the Flyers have placed a big emphasis on this week, it has been their special teams - which, frankly, haven't been very special this season. The Flyers' power play finished 19th and their penalty kill was not much better, placing 15th in the 30-team league.
"Special teams can change the outcome of a game and a series," penalty killer Blair Betts said. "I think everything is heightened at this time of year. We're going to have to see how the game is going to be called. It's usually pretty tight. We don't want to give the other team many opportunities."
The old hockey clichés still fit: that the goaltender is always the team's best penalty killer and that the best penalty kill is not taking a penalty.
But the Flyers' power play hasn't done a good job of taking advantage, capitalizing on just five of its last 41 opportunities. The Flyers are just 1-for-29 if you take out power-play goals against the Islanders and Senators, two of the worst teams in the conference.
"I think it goes hand-in-hand with how we've played the last couple of weeks," Laviolette said. "I think it's just a matter of getting some zip in our step."
Laviolette has added a few new looks to the power play, which could be unveiled tonight.
"I think when you simplify and get hungrier and get pucks to the net, that's the key to every power play," Scott Hartnell said.
"We need guys to get more involved," Claude Giroux said. "When we do a bad job, we never get control of it or a chance to set up. When we outwork the other guys, that's when we're going to get our chances."
Ben Holmstrom, Erik Gustafsson, Johan Backlund, Matt Walker, Kevin Marshall, Zac Rinaldo, Michael Ryan, Mike Testwuide and Eric Wellwood make up the Flyers' black aces this year . . . The Sabres' charter flight to Philadelphia yesterday afternoon was supposed to leave at 2 o'clock but sat on the tarmac in Buffalo until taking off at 4:58 p.m. . . . Flyers forward Ian Laperriere and alumni Bernie Parent, Bob Kelly, Joe Watson and Derian Hatcher rang the opening bell at NASDAQ yesterday in New York City and dropped a ceremonial puck to commemorate the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at
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