Shortly after the opening faceoff for Game 7 between the Flyers and Sabres on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, Paul Gaustad, Buffalo's towering center, charged full speed toward Chris Pronger, who was against the boards, looking for an opening to outlet the puck.

In rapid sequence, Pronger passed to an open teammate and absorbed the hit by Gaustad, making certain his damaged right hand was not in the line of fire.

Even with the limitations imposed on Pronger because of the broken hand he suffered when he was hit by a slapshot in late February and an apparent setback during his recovery, the 36-year-old defenseman brings value to the Flyers. It comes in the form of his poise and 17 years of experience as much as his skill and ability to intimidate.

"He makes terrific plays," coach Peter Laviolette said following a breezy, 5-2 win that advanced the Flyers into the Eastern Conference semifinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs. "Whether they are big plays or little plays, sometimes you don't even notice them. Just his presence back there and his shot opens up other things. He looked really strong in all situations."

Laviolette significantly increased Pronger's role from Game 6 to Game 7. In Sunday's Game 6 overtime win in Buffalo, Pronger played for the first time since March 8. He was on the ice for only 4 minutes, 33 seconds, all on power plays, and the Flyers scored a power-play goal, only their third of the series. In Game 7, Pronger's ice time increased to 17:27. He got the second assist on a power-play goal and blocked five shots. He got only one shot to the net and didn't play on the penalty-killing unit, indications that he remains restricted by the injury and must work his way into game shape.