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Sabres C Connolly out with back injury @NHLdotcom

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Oft-injured Buffalo Sabres center Tim Connolly will miss at least the first week of the season after tests revealed he has a hairline fracture of a vertebra.

Coach Lindy Ruff characterized the break as minor, and said Connolly could be cleared to play within a week after the play-making center missed the Sabres season-opening 2-1 shootout win over Montreal on Friday. Connolly has been out since appearing in Buffalo's second preseason game, a 3-2 loss to Montreal on Sept. 23.

He missed several practices complaining of back pain, but had resumed skating with the team this week.

Ruff said the fracture didn't show up in X-rays, but was discovered after Connolly had a recent MRI test.

The injury is another setback for a player who missed 34 games last season, including the final 12, after having surgery to remove bone chips from his hip. An eight-year NHL veteran, Connolly has appeared in only 50 games over the past two seasons as a result of injuries, and missed the entire 2003-04 campaign with post-concussion symptoms.

The Canadiens, who opened their 100th season, were minus forwards Christopher Higgins (groin) and Georges Laraque (groin) and defenseman Francis Bouillon (knee).

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