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Ruff hopeful about Connolly's return @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff is optimistic that injured center Tim Connolly will be able to play this weekend when the Eastern Conference-winning Sabres conclude their regular season with games in Washington and Philadelphia.

Connolly, who hasn't played since sustaining a concussion in last season's playoffs, went through a rigorous on-ice workout Friday, giving Ruff some hope the forward will make his first appearance of the year on Saturday against the Capitals.

"We'll see how he feels tomorrow and then make a decision," Ruff said. "If we do get him in and he feels well enough to play, the opportunity is there to look at him in both games. The plan is to get a read on whether he can be an asset to our team."

The decision will be a collective one, with Connolly, Ruff, general manager Darcy Regier and trainer Tim Macre all involved. Ruff said the decision will wait until Saturday morning, hours before the 1 p.m. ET start.

The organization, though, will be cautious if there are any doubts, Ruff said. Connolly experienced a setback in his recovery six weeks ago when he broke a bone below his knee.

Connolly said he felt fine after the practice and is also feeling good about his chances of playing against Washington.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "I'm getting excited each day."

If Connolly does play, right wing Drew Stafford, who was the league's rookie of the month for March after scoring nine goals in 15 games, would be sent down to AHL Rochester. Forward Clarke MacArthur was sent to Rochester earlier on Friday.

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