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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres
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Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff put the team through a physical practice on Monday at HSBC Arena.  One of the purposes for the tough practice was to evaluate the status of injured forwards Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford.

Both players were optimistic about returning to the lineup on Wednesday, but Ruff offered a more cautious outlook.

“We had a good look at practice today.  We want to make sure that, physically, both of them are up to the task,” said Ruff.  “We’ve got two or three good, hard practices with Tim now and Drew, today was probably his first real tough test.  I thought he wasn’t quite up to my expectations on the physical side but he might have been just protecting a little.”

Ruff added that he is hopeful that both players can “answer the call” on Wednesday. 

Stafford has missed 15 of the last 16 games with an upper body injury.  Initially, he missed 11 games with the injury and returned to the lineup on Dec. 3.  He helped lead the Sabres to a 5-0 win over Columbus in that game with a goal and an assist, but re-aggravated the injury and has missed the last four games.  Connolly, meanwhile, has been out for the past eight games with a groin injury.

Stafford talked about the frustration of coming back for one game and then getting injured again. 

“It’s pretty much the worst, especially when you’re working hard to get back and then you get caught in a bad spot again,” he said.  “It felt like ‘Groundhog Day.’  It’s just one of those things where you’ve just got to get back to work as far as getting it better and taking your time with it and letting it settle down and feel good.”

Mike Weber (Photo: Bill Wippert)
Mike Weber received a double-minor for roughing when he got involved in a scrap with the NHL’s leading scorer, Sidney Crosby, in Saturday’s game.  On Monday, Weber said the game, which included a fight between Jason Pominville and Matt Cooke, had gotten “chippy” to that point and it was important for the Sabres to play an aggressive style.

“It goes back to Cooke going after Pominville.  Pominville’s one of our top-end guys here and they weren’t shy to get in his face, so why should we be shy to get in Crosby’s face?” Weber said.  “He’s a competitor and he’s playing on the ice, he’s got the same pads on as we do, and he’s one of the best players in the game so I think that’s more of an emphasis why guys need to be in his face.  The game got a little chippy after that point and before that point.  That’s the type of hockey we need to play going forward to make sure we get ourselves into a playoff spot.”

Following Wednesday’s home game against Boston, seven of the team’s next 10 games will be played on the road.  Buffalo’s schedule has been fairly balanced through the first 30 games, with 16 games played at home and 14 on the road thus far.
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