SUNRISE, Fla. — The Buffalo Sabres’ playoff push will get a boost Saturday night when defenseman Andrej Sekera returns to the lineup against the Florida Panthers.
Sekera missed the last five games after being diagnosed with pneumonia.
“I’m back healthy again and I’m ready to go,” Sekara said after Buffalo’s morning skate. “Every single time you come back from an injury or whatever, you are excited and you want to win some hockey games here with the guys. That’s our focus.”
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said Sekera was playing at a high level before he was sidelined.
“Before he got sick, he might have been our top defenseman,” Ruff said. “He was playing against all the top lines. You look at his ability to hang on to the puck and get up ice and defend against the top personnel, I mean, his skating for a defenseman is at an elite level.”
Sekera last played March 5 at Winnipeg. He said he experienced flu-like symptoms, but went for further testing after three days when he wasn’t getting any better.
“I figured it might be something different because I had the bug before but it wasn’t that bad,” Sekera said. “So I called the doctor and did some more tests and they said I had pneumonia. They said it was in the early stage of it and it was in only one of my lungs so far, so I got my antibiotics and as long as the fever is not coming back, I feel pretty good.”
The sixth-year NHL veteran said he wasn’t concerned about stamina in his return to action.
“If I wasn’t ready, I wouldn’t be playing,” said Sekera, who will replace Brayden McNabb in the lineup. “I feel like I’m ready and I’m playing.”
While Sekera will be back, forward Nathan Gerbe will miss a second consecutive game because of an upper-body injury. Ruff said Gerbe, who was injured in a 3-2 overtime victory Monday over Montreal, is day-to-day.
Buffalo also will be without defenseman Tyler Myers, who will be serving the second game of a three-game suspension for boarding Montreal forward Scott Gomez on Monday night.
Here is the Sabres’ projected lineup for Saturday:
Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Corey Tropp - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek - Cody Hodgson - Ville Leino
Cody McCormick - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta
Christian Ehrhoff - Alexander Sulzer
Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Jordan Leopold - Mike Weber