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Olofsson back at practice with Sabres, won't play against Ducks

Rookie forward has missed 13 games, remains at least one week from return to lineup

by Heather Engel / Independent Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Victor Olofsson returned to practice with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury on Jan. 2, but the rookie forward is at least one week from returning to the lineup.

"It's a huge step. It's great to be back with the guys," Olofsson said. "I'm not quite there yet but it was nice to kind of get out there and get the feel of the game again. It's good to have a little bit of contact; a few guys around you, you have to kind of be aware where you have your teammates and opponents."

Olofsson has 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 42 games, second in the NHL among rookies in goals behind Chicago Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik (21) and third in points behind Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar.

Video: BUF@PHI: Olofsson scores PPG on redirection

Despite Olofsson having missed 13 games, he is third on Buffalo in scoring behind forwards Jack Eichel (68 points; 31 goals, 37 assists) and Sam Reinhart (45 points; 20 goals, 25 assists).

"When you see a player back from an injury from this time period, then you know that we're nearing a reentry, but I would definitely say it will be a week or more still," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "It's the first step of reintegrating him into the game, but we're really pleased to see him back out there today."

The Sabres (24-23-8), who have gone 6-6-1 in Olofsson's absence, play the Anaheim Ducks at KeyBank Center on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; TVAS, MSG-B, PRIME, NHL.TV).

Olofsson had been skating for a few weeks before rejoining his teammates and said he feels "better and better every day." But neither he nor the Sabres plan to rush his return; he had an initial recovery time of 5-6 weeks and did not take line rushes Saturday.

"We'll take it kind of step by step," he said. "This was kind of the first step to just get out on the ice with the other guys. I'm going to continue working very hard here, especially on game days, put in some extra work, and we'll see how fast I can get back.

"Obviously, you want to be out there and help the team, but like I said, I've got to stay positive and I've got to stay calm and not really rush it either. That's when you can have those setbacks as well. Obviously, you get really eager to get back into it when you're watching it."

Forced into a spectator's role has allowed Olofsson to get a different perspective of the game.

"We're pleased with the way the injury's evolved and we also think it's a time where he's been able to do some reflection and some more mental growth," Krueger said. "He's been able to observe the game from the outside. We've been interacting with him quite a bit, and I think it's going to take him even to another level of maturity. 

"Having a bit of a pause in a season which was truly rookie of the year NHL-caliber, we're confident he'll be able to get back to that level but even with a higher feeling of confidence, having looked at the game outside now."

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