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Sabres C Connolly close to returning @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Buffalo center Tim Connolly skated over the weekend and could return to practice Tuesday, when the Sabres begin preparing for their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Monday that he's "optimistic about him practicing and possibly playing" when the playoff series begins Thursday.

Connolly is the Sabres' second-leading scorer with 65 points, despite missing the last nine games because of a foot injury.

Ruff also didn't rule out forward Jochen Hecht from practicing, though he's not been skating since missing the last three games with an upper-body injury. Right wing Drew Stafford remains questionable after sustaining a slight concussion Saturday against Ottawa.

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