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Sabres' Hecht ready to return; Tallinder questionable

NHL.com @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -The banged-up Buffalo Sabres can count on at least left wing Jochen Hecht's return now that the NHL All-Star break is over.

Hecht said Thursday he expects to play at Columbus on Friday after he practiced fully in the team's first session back after a four-day break. Hecht, who missed three games with what the Sabres referred to as a lower body injury, ranks ninth on the team with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) and plays alongside co-captain and scoring leader Daniel Briere.

The Eastern Conference-leading Sabres (33-12-4) are still uncertain of the status of defenseman Henrik Tallinder (high right ankle sprain) and forward Jiri Novotny (left ankle).

Tallinder practiced but isn't sure he's ready to return during Buffalo's two-game road trip, which concludes at the New York Islanders on Saturday.

"It doesn't feel great but it doesn't feel bad," Tallinder said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow, but it was a step forward today."

Novotny did not practice and has missed one game since being hurt in the first period of a 4-3 shootout win over Vancouver on Jan. 19. Assistant Brian McCutcheon said the team will wait until Friday to decide whether Tallinder or Novotny can play.

McCutcheon ran practice while coach Lindy Ruff and the team's three All-Star players - Briere, defenseman Brian Campbell and goalie Ryan Miller - traveled directly to Columbus after the All-Star game at Dallas on Wednesday.

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