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Ryan O'Reilly of Sabres hopes to play Thursday

Center practiced for first time since appendectomy

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly practiced Wednesday for the first time since having an appendectomy in Buffalo on Christmas Day and hopes to play against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CSN-CH, NHL.TV). 

Sabres coach Dan Bylsma is hopeful, too, but said a decision wouldn't be finalized until meeting with O'Reilly, general manager Tim Murray and a doctor.

"He felt really good on the ice, has no ill side effects, has no feeling of the surgery that took place the morning of [Dec. 25], so other than getting back on the ice after being off for seven days, he felt good out there," Bylsma said. "Hopefully that's a good indication we'll maybe see him [Thursday]."

O'Reilly was to be inactive for 10-14 days following surgery.

"It felt great to be back with the guys," he said. "It feels like it has been months since I've been around. It's nice to get out there. I feel 100 percent. It's just a matter of making sure everybody is on board and feeling safe."

O'Reilly (seven goals, 18 points in 27 games) has missed four games. He missed five in November with an oblique injury, which he feared returned on Dec. 24.

"It came out of nowhere," O'Reilly said. "The morning of [Dec. 24], I kind of felt my stomach was upset and didn't really think anything of it. I tried to settle it and nothing really happened. That night around [10:30 p.m.], I called the doctor and said, 'Hey, I want to make sure this isn't appendicitis or anything like that,' and unfortunately it was. It was good we caught it in time and didn't travel with it."

The Sabres are 2-2-0 without O'Reilly, who centered a line with left wing Derek Grant and right wing Brian Gionta in practice. If O'Reilly is cleared to play, that line is likely to stay together.

"I want to play [Thursday]," O'Reilly said. "I feel I can for sure. I might be a little rusty, but I feel I'm ready to get back. I still feel I can be effective. It's just a matter of talking with all the management and staff, [making sure] that everyone is [OK] with it."

The Sabres had two players missing from practice a day after they defeated the New York Rangers 4-1 at Madison Square Garden. Defenseman Jake McCabe was out for a maintenance day and forward William Carrier was sick.

Carrier is questionable, and McCabe is expected to play.

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