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Teppo Numminen off to new start with Sabres after heart surgery @NHLdotcom

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Teppo Numminen seems happier than he's been in more than a year.

The Buffalo Sabres defenceman, who failed his physical on the first day of training camp in 2007 due to a heart ailment, got a clean bill of health Saturday.

"It's nice to be back in the routine and doing things I've always done," said Numminen, who re-signed with the Sabres after undergoing heart valve surgery last season. "It's a nice comfortable feeling."

The 40-year-old Numminen, whose only action last season came in the final game, didn't participate in an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday. He did, however, skate with a practice group during a "Puckdrop" event attended by about 7,000 fans.

"It's a different mind-set than in the past," Numminen said. "Training camp is a grind and it's kind of a pain. But not this time. It's exciting to be back."

The Sabres hope Numminen brings his usual veteran stability and helps them return to the playoffs. Buffalo missed the post-season a year ago after posting the best record in the NHL the season before.

"He's a nice calming influence," Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. "When I watch him with the puck in our zone or watch him play, it's just effortless, and it rubs off on all the other players."

Tim Connolly, who missed the final 12 games of the season after having hip surgery to remove bone chips, skated in the scrimmage and said he was "doing OK."

"He's made some real big strides," coach Lindy Ruff said. "I don't feel he's at 100 per cent, but he's a lot further ahead than he was in the past."

In a busy day, Sabres ownership announced that general manager Darcy Regier was given a two-year contract extension that will keep him in the fold through the 2010-11 season.

The team also showed off its third jersey - featuring the club's original charging bison and crossed swords logo - during the celebration Saturday.

Buffalo opens its pre-season schedule on Monday night at Toronto.

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