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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Tim Connolly (Photo: Brian Wheeler)
Buffalo Sabres centerman Tim Connolly participated in the team’s morning skate today for the first time since Oct. 10.

Connolly has yet to play in the regular season this year after sustaining a hairline fracture in his vertebrae.

“It was just a real light skate just to get out there and get used to the ice and get my hands going a little bit. It was a fairly easy skate and I just have to take it slow getting back into things,” he said.

Connolly injured his back during the Sabres’ preseason match-up with the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 23 in Roberval, Quebec.

“The first shift I was just going back for a puck and the forechecker was coming in on me and I tried to roll off of him. He was coming full-speed and I had to get the puck,” Connolly said following practice at HSBC Arena. “I spun as hard as I could I took, I don’t know if it was an elbow or a butt-end… to the back.”

The incident caused him to miss the final five preseason contests. Although Connolly practiced with the team all week leading up to Sabres season opener against the Canadiens on Oct. 10, as well as the morning skate prior to the game, the centerman was announced as a scratch.

“I didn’t know it was that severe,” Connolly said. “It was tolerable for a while and then it got considerably worse before the opening night so I had to back off it and let it heal. It’s almost completely healed so I am just going to take it one day at a time.”

Head Coach Lindy Ruff did not give a timetable for his return, saying the team would “see how he reacts to skating,” and increase the difficulty of the practice each day.

“When we put him back in, he’ll be full-go,” Ruff said. “It won’t be a just-play scenario or take a day off here or there. We’re going to get him healthy and get him back.”

Connolly reported that while it was originally thought that he hurt one disc in his back, there were actually two fractures.

“It’s not on the spine or anything like that. All the discs and everything are perfectly inline,” he said. “One [bone] is 100 percent healed and one is about 90 percent healed. I can’t do any further damage to it, so I’m just going to go out, take it day-by-day and see how it goes.”

The 27 year old missed a total 34 games in the 2007-08 season with three different ailments: hip (27); abdominal strain (5); flu (2). The last regular season game Connolly played for the Sabres was on Mar. 10, 2007 against the New York Rangers.

Despite only playing in 48 games last year, he still finished with 40 points (7+33), with his 33 assists ranked third on the team.

“It’s a lot easier when the team is doing so well, it takes a lot of pressure off you when you’re not in the lineup,” he said. “Guys are doing a great job. Obviously missing Goose, Jochen and myself I think quite a few guys have stepped up and done a great job out there and we deserve to have the record we have right now.”

Ruff also addressed Paul Gaustad (thumb) and Jochen Hecht’s injuries.

“We’ve got all three guys really in the same category. Jochen is probably the furthest away [from returning]," he said. "[Gaustad] is using his hand a little bit, but it’s going to be a case where we’ll just see when you up the activity how [the injury] reacts to it. I don’t anticipate that he’s that close either yet.”

Both Hecht and Gaustad participated in the morning skate as well.
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