It took just a little more than 3 weeks for the Buffalo Sabres to get their star defenseman with Stanley Cup finals experience back from a broken hand.

The Flyers are still waiting for theirs.

Jordan Leopold, 30, missed the Sabres' last 10 games - including the first two games of this series - after undergoing surgery on March 26 to repair a fracture in his hand. He made a surprising return to Buffalo's lineup last night, more than a week ahead of schedule.

Chris Pronger, meanwhile, took a big step in his recovery yesterday by returning to practice with his teammates in their morning skate for the first time since late March. Pronger passed the puck noticeably harder than he did last week but was still shooting gingerly.

Pronger underwent hand surgery on March 15 and was only supposed to miss 3 to 4 weeks, like Leopold. Pronger missed his 19th consecutive game last night. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren vehemently denied a report by Howard Eskin on NBC10's "Sports Final" on Sunday night that said Pronger had undergone a second surgery in late March to repair a second fracture, which was labeled by the Flyers as the initial "setback."

"They think they can throw whatever they want at the wall and see if it sticks," Holmgren said.

In response, Eskin tweeted, "I stand by my story on Pronger."

The Flyers never have officially said what caused Pronger's setback. He originally was supposed to be ready for the final week of the regular season. His status for tomorrow night's Game 4 remains uncertain.

Holmgren said on March 31 that Pronger "pushed it a little too quickly."

The Sabres took a more conservative approach with Leopold. And that's why Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was able to plug Leopold, who posted 13 goals and 22 assists this season from the point, on a pairing with Steve Montador to match up with the Flyers' top line of Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk last night.