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Afinogenov Close To Returning

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Maxim Afinogenov has to smile when he sees his name on the NHL's All-Star ballot. The 27-year-old right winger received the first All-Star nomination of his career on Wednesday afternoon and it's an honor that he isn't taking lightly.

"I've really enjoyed this season," said Afinogenov. "I've been playing well and the team has been very successful."

Prior to suffering an upper-body injury in the first period of Buffalo's 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Afinogenov was the Sabres leading scorer with 19 points (8+11) in just 13 games. His 1.46 points per game still ranks fifth among all scorers in the league.

Afinogenov has missed Buffalo's last five games.

"I just need time to heal," said Afinogenov. "Hopefully I can jump in right away and play the way I did before. With missing games, it's probably going to be a little tough but I'm ready for that. It's the whole reason why you practice."

According to Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff there is a possibility that Afinogenov could return to the lineup against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night (8 p.m., MSG, WGR 550-AM)

"The doctors have cleared him and now it depends on how he feels," Ruff said. "[The doctor] said there is still going to be some soreness and he would have to play through that."

The trio of prospects who were recalled from the Rochester Americans - forward Drew Stafford, defenseman Mike Card and goaltender Adam Dennis - were still present when the Sabres took the ice on Thursday morning. Absent from the workout was center Derek Roy, who was getting X-Rays taken after blocking a shot in Wednesday night's 4-2 loss to Ottawa.

Early indications are that the X-Rays will be negative.

"We think so, but there are no guarantee there either," said Ruff when asked if Roy would be active against Pittsburgh. "He missed some time last night and decided to play late in the game."

Roy skated 16 shifts against the Senators, eight of which came in the first period.
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