There are a couple of ways to look at Chris Pronger's absence and how it has affected the Flyers' blueliners.

Glass half-empty: Having Pronger sidelined for the last five weeks has increased the other defensemen's minutes and left them gassed and susceptible to mistakes.

Glass half-full: The added ice time has gotten the defensemen into a rhythm and helped them play better.

The Flyers, who obviously will welcome Pronger back with open arms, subscribe to the second theory, especially defensemen Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, and Matt Carle - the players whose playing time has risen the most because of the absence of No. 20.

"It's playoff time, and as many minutes as you get, you're going to feel better," Timonen said after Tuesday's practice in Buffalo.

The Flyers lead the best-of-seven series, two games to one, with Game 4 in Buffalo on Wednesday night.

Timonen, who had 24 minutes, 1 second of action in Game 3, and defensive partner Coburn, who played for 23:15, were dominant in the Flyers' 4-2 win Monday. Each was plus-3, and they were on the ice for a bulk of the Flyers' key five-on-three penalty kill in the third period, the game's most pivotal sequence.

"I've always been really open to the challenge of playing more minutes," said Coburn, who had four blocked shots on Monday. "You kind of get into a groove when you play more minutes. You get into a flow because you're going out there every other shift and getting lots of minutes. Sometimes when you get breaks between shifts, you get a little cooler, and it's a little harder to stay in the game that way. When you're playing a lot, your adrenaline's flowing all the time."

Meszaros, who played a game-high 24:42 on Monday, and Carle agreed.

"It's helping me, definitely," Meszaros said of the added minutes. "The more you're on the ice, the more chances you have to do something. We don't want to have a guy like Prongs out of the lineup. But I'm just trying to play as hard as I can and as long as I can so coaches can put me in in any situation. It's been working so far pretty good."

"When I first came into the league, I was a five or six guy," said Carle, meaning he was on the last defensive pairing. "And when you're playing 12, 15 minutes, you're sitting on the bench a long time and your legs stiffen up a bit."