Mike Richards had fans, writers and the Internet buzzing Wednesday when the Flyers conducted their final practice before the playoffs without their captain on the ice.

"It's unusual to not have Mike here because he's here every other day of the year," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We would have liked to have him out there and (Chris) Pronger and everybody else."

Richards confirmed he missed Wednesday's practice with a head cold and expects to be in the lineup tonight when the Flyers open the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Buffalo Sabres at the Wells Fargo Center.

"Knowing Mike, I'm not worried about him at all," Flyers center Danny Briere said.

Apparently, Richards arrived at the Skate Zone Wednesday not feeling well and was sent home.

"You want all the players on the ice and Mike is a big player on this team," Laviolette said. "It was a 30-minute pass-around to work up a sweat and work on a few things. We'll be fine."

Meanwhile, Pronger still appears to be at least a few days away from returning from a broken right hand. Pronger skated with some of the minor league players the Flyers recalled from the Phantoms. He made and received passes but did not take any shots.

Until Pronger is able to take hard shots without pain, he'll remain out of the lineup. Laviolette said Pronger, who has not played since March 8, does not necessarily need to practice before he plays. "At some point he'll be cleared and that point he'll go back in," Laviolette said. "The guy's played 1,200 games (actually 1,154) and I would imagine he'll jump back in when he gets clearance."

If not, it appears Danny Syvret will get the call on a third defense unit with Sean O'Donnell. Syvret played just 10 NHL games this season and has no Stanley Cup playoff experience. He was re-acquired by the Flyers from the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 21 in a trade that sent prospect Patrick Maroon to Anaheim.