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by Brian Wheeler / Buffalo Sabres
Dmitri Kalinin (photo: Getty Images)
The final piece of the Buffalo Sabres blueline puzzle will fall into place this Wednesday in New York.

Dmitri Kalinin will basically make a second debut against the Islanders when he plays for the first time in 23 games, marking the first time since Oct. 19 that Buffalo will have their full arsenal of defenseman available.

Kalinin was sidelined for seven weeks after a knee-to-knee collision in the defensive zone with Carolina Hurricane's captain Rod Brind'Amour on Oct. 24.

The six-foot-three, 206-pounder's injury compounded the Sabres injury issues on the blueline in the opening weeks of the season.  Jaroslav Spacek sustained a shoulder injury in just his fifth game. 

Kalinin's case causing the Sabres to seek out the services of Nolan Pratt.

"There's nothing you can do about it [injuries]," said Kalinin.  "Things happen and they could happen to anyone.  You just have to battle through it and do the rehab work.

"You want to play.  That was the hardest part."

Kalinin believes that the work he put in with assistant coach James Patrick during rehabilitation will payout and that he shouldn't be limited from certain situations come game time.


Watch Lindy Ruff's post-practice comments regarding Dmitri Kalinin and the team's recent performances.

Ruff Interview
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff takes a little more realistic approach to Kalinin's status; he'll have to walk before he runs.

"Initially, you expect a little bit of rust," said Ruff.  "There's nothing like game conditioning.  There's nothing like someone running you.  There's nothing like playing the opposition because it doesn't happen in practice.

"But I expect after his first two or three shifts, he'll settle right in and play as good as he did previous to being injured."

Kalinin's return creates a level of competition for the sixth and seventh defensive spots that wasn't previously there.

Pratt and Nathan Paetsch will fight for playing time the remainder of the season.  Ruff indicated that he wasn't in favor of dressing seven defensemen as long as he continues to like the fourth line's production.

Paetsch has experience at left wing, but Ruff is hesitant to move him there.

"I'm a little bit superstitious," joke Ruff.  "Every time I put him on left wing [last season], he ended up on defense the next game.  It meant that somebody was going to get hurt, so we're going to keep him on the backend."

[Editor's Note:  Watch Kalinin's post-practice comments by clicking play below.]

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