Will he play or won't he?

For the Flyers, Chris Pronger's availability for Thursday's opener in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals has become more suspenseful than a few episodes of Dexter.

Pronger, 36, who hasn't played since March 8 because of a broken right hand, said on Tuesday he was "very" confident he will play in the series, but sidestepped questions about his availability for Game 1 against visiting Buffalo.

"I guess you'll have to wait and find out, won't you?" he said during a six-minute interview/comedy routine with the media at the Flyers practice facility in Voorhees.

The cornerstone of the Flyers defense, Pronger skated for about 50 minutes prior to the team's practice Tuesday - he was joined by Ian Laperriere, an unofficial coach, and teammates Matt Walker and Oskars Bartulis - but did not handle a puck. His hand has been too sore to do any stickhandling, which he will attempt on Wednesday. He isn't expected to try shooting until Thursday.

How he does Wednesday may determine if he plays Thursday.

"Might," Pronger said, playfully.

Coach Peter Laviolete didn't sound optimistic. General manager Paul Holmgren took a "wait and see" approach and said Pronger was "coming along nicely. He's better today than he was" Monday.

Overall, the Flyers were 16-9-7 without Pronger this season. But they won just three of their last 12 games (3-4-5) without the future Hall of Famer.

"The whole purpose of adding guys in the off-season was if something happened, we were ready," said steady defenseman Matt Carle, referring to Andrej Meszaros and Sean O'Donnell. "You can't replace Chris Pronger with one person, but as a D corps, we all have to step up our games" if he is unable to play.

Laviolette was asked if he was confident the Flyers could win if Pronger couldn't play.

"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" in the other players.

Added Laviolette: "We dealt with injuries last year and all this year. Most teams do. They're [Buffalo] 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."