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Hit Heard Around the Room

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
A good night's sleep in their own beds, and practice in Buffalo for the first time in nearly two weeks, didn't help the overall mood of the Buffalo Sabres locker room. Many players and coaches were still fuming over the controversial hip-check by Darius Kasparaitis on Tim Connolly at the Pepsi Center in Amherst, NY on Wednesday morning.

"I thought it was cheap," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff in his post-practice press conference. "He went low at the knees and we lose one of our best players over it."

"Everyone's still pretty angry," said Sabres co-captain Chris Drury. "It was a dirty hit to chop the knees right out from under the guy."

"That's the kind of player he is," said JP Dumont. "For every four good hits he dishes out, he gives three of those cheap shots. It was pretty obvious last night that he was going for the knees and not a hip-check."

Connolly, who left the game following the collision with little assistance from trainer Tim Macre, will undergo an MRI later today to determine the injury's severity. Initially, the center is projected to miss around six weeks.

"I was upset with the hit and I was upset at the way (Kasparaitis) responded," said Ruff. "When challenged, he flopped around the ice like a half-dead fish."

Both Drury and Mike Grier attempted to confront the Rangers defenseman with no avail following the play.

"When I see a 240-pound guy diving around like a Squirt after taking one of our guy's knees out, I don't feel too good," said Drury. "I kind of feel embarrassed for him that he can't stand up and rise to the challenges. I barely touched him and he dove. Mike (Grier) barely touches him and he dives."

It was the second incident for Kasparaitis in as many games. On Sunday, the defenseman received a five-minute major and a 10-minutes game misconduct after elbowing New Jersey forward Grant Marshall in the first period of a 3-1 Rangers victory over the Devils.

"He should have been suspended for elbowing Marshall in the face," said JP Dumont, who sustained a concussion his rookie season after being elbowed by Kasparaitis. "That's the kind of thing we don't want in the league anymore and he didn't get suspended. He came back the next game and put one of our guys out for a while."

Connolly had been one of Buffalo's best forwards in recent weeks. In 48 games this season, the Syracuse, NY native led the Sabres with 29 assists and was tied with Drury for the team scoring lead with 38 points.

"It's a huge loss," said Drury. "I know the coaches are saying they need someone to step up, but the fact is, it's a huge loss. It's tough to take today."

With Connolly's absence the Sabres roster is depleted to just three centers.

In Connolly's stead, Jochen Hecht has been slotted between Jason Pominville and Ales Kotalik. Hecht played half of the Sabres game Tuesday night at center.

"I haven't played (center) in a while, but I'm looking forward to it," said Hecht. "I will be a little bit different. There will be a lot more skating involved and more defensive play, but somebody has to fill that spot."
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