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NOLAN PRATT TO PLAY AGAINST PANTHERS

Friday, 11.02.2007 / 1:27 PM / News
By Brian Wheeler  - Sabres.com
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NOLAN PRATT TO PLAY AGAINST PANTHERS
Defenseman Nolan Pratt
Nolan Pratt will see his first NHL game action since the 2007 playoffs tonight against the Florida Panthers in HSBC Arena (7:30 p.m., MSG, WGR 550-AM).

The six-foot-three, 207-pound defenseman - or the Sabres coaching staff for that matter - hadn't planned to be activated, but Jaroslav Spacek's re-aggravation of his shoulder injury on Thursday night in Buffalo's 4-3 overtime loss to Boston forced the issue.

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"It's the same injury," said head coach Lindy Ruff concerning Spacek.  "He missed a few shifts in the third but we thought he was going to be ok.  Today it was just too tender."

Spacek will be out of the lineup indefinitely after missing five consecutive starts from Oct. 19 to Oct. 27 with the same injury. 

"Hopefully, it's the short term, but we thought it was going to be shorter the last time too," said Ruff.

The Sabres were left with Pratt or inexperienced rookies as the possible solutions to their blueline problem.  The team decided to roll the dice with the 11-year veteran.

Ruff has an idea where Pratt will be utilized, which centers around using his areas of strength, but wasn't specific to full extent of his participation in the contest. 

"We'll play him in some special teams situations, probably some penalty killing and some defensive situations," said Ruff. 

"I'm really excited," said Pratt.  "It's been a really long summer, and a little frustrating at times, but I'm really excited for the opportunity."

Conditioning has been the Sabres' main concern. 

The team had hoped to assign Pratt to the Rochester Americans for a conditioning stint and to get him better acquainted with their style of play.  A defensive defenseman, Pratt has had limited exposure to Buffalo's defensive scheme. 

That plan disappeared Friday with Spacek's injury.

"Three goals, a fight and a couple blocked shots," joked Ruff when asked what his expectations were for Pratt. 

"He's a good defender.  He's smart in his own zone.  He's a good penalty killer.  And he's spent a lot of time defending against the best players in the league."

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