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NOTEBOOK: ON THE CUSP OF RETURNING

SABRES TRIO OF INJURED FORWARDS RETURN TO THE ICE

Tuesday, 04.13.2010 / 3:44 PM / News
By Erin Pollina  - Sabres.com
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NOTEBOOK: ON THE CUSP OF RETURNING
Buffalo Sabres forward Tim Connolly, right, is congratulated by forward Drew Stafford after Connolly scored a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers Monday, Jan. 19, 2009 in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
After a two-week hiatus, Tim Connolly officially returned to practice with the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday afternoon.

Missing the final nine contests of the regular season due a to a foot injury, it’s now a matter of wait-and-see as to when the center will return to the lineup.

[UPDATE: APRIL 14, 1:27PM: Lindy Ruff reports that Connolly is "a go" for Game 1 against Boston. Jochen Hecht and Drew Stafford are questionable.]

“I can’t give you too much information yet, but I feel good out there,” Connolly said. “I did some battle drills yesterday on the day off, was able to get in there and just work on some tough drills in the corner.”

But will he be ready in time for Game One against the Boston Bruins on Thursday?

“You’ll have to talk Lindy [Ruff] about that,” Connolly said.

“That’s a coach’s decision,” Ruff laughed. “He’s got to have a good practice tomorrow, but we hope to just carry on, elevate it. We got him involved in some physical stuff and tomorrow [he’ll do] a little bit more.”

Connolly was the team’s second-leading producer with 65 points and 48 assists through 73 games in the regular season. Although he’s been off the ice, the center said he has continued to work on the bike to keep his conditioning up and prepare for the post-season.

“I’ve been able to gradually bike harder and harder,” Connolly said. “I started off just resting and getting the healing process going, but each day I’ve been able to do a little bit more for the past couple weeks. Basically the last week… it’s been full speed.”

While Connolly was a welcome addition, he wasn’t the only member of the team returning to the ice for the first time.

Drew Stafford and Jochen Hecht, who have each missed time with upper body injuries, also skated at HSBC Arena.

Hecht practiced alongside Paul Gaustad, Adam Mair and Mike Grier in the 60 minute workout, while Stafford worked on his own afterwards.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to put the work in,” Stafford said. “Taking it slow and see how I feel.”

The winger took a crushing hit along the boards from Andy Sutton during Buffalo’s 5-2 march over Ottawa on Saturday.

“It was a pretty big hit. I kind of got caught there obviously,” Stafford said. “Right now it’s just a process of taking it slow, making sure my head is on straight and making sure I’m back at 100 percent before I go out there and try to play.”

While Ruff would not confirm whether any, or all three players will be able to compete in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the most promising news is that he would also not rule any of them out.

“It obviously is a good thing to have all the players we mentioned on the cusp of being ready to play, and possibly playing on Thursday,” he said. “You want to be as healthy as you can. First and foremost you have to be able to be healthy and help your team. With a good practice tomorrow we’ll be able to make that determination.”



The NHL will host the 2010 LG NHL Draft Lottery at 8 p.m. on April 13 to set the order of selection for June's Entry Draft. The program will be televised on Versus and TSN, and streamed live on NHL.com.

The Edmonton Oilers, who finished with the fewest points in the League this season, have the best chance of winning the No. 1 pick. Since teams can move up a maximum of five spots, the only teams with a chance at gaining the top choice are the Oilers, Boston Bruins (who have Toronto's pick), Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders.

Click here for more info.



QUOTABLE: Tim Connolly on possibly returning from injury:

"It will be nice to get a few games in, maybe get the timing down. But I think, as far as playoffs go, I think there is always a little bit of an adjustment [with speed]. It’s even faster than the regular season. I think everybody the first few shifts is going to feel it and the excitement. Sometimes, for the first few games, you can run on adrenaline alone and then get right into the swing of things."

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