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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres
After taking five days off for the NHL All-Star break, the Sabres returned to the ice for an afternoon practice at the Northtown Center in Amherst on Monday.  Head Coach Lindy Ruff has four straight practice days to prepare his team before it returns to action on Friday at Pittsburgh.

For as poorly as we started, we’re in position to do something good, we can definitely make the postseason. We can do it by playing solid hockey. - Sabres Goalie Ryan Miller

“Today we went as hard as we thought they could handle for being the first day back,” Ruff said.  “We’ll have a real hard combative day, we’ll have a real good system day and we’ll have a special teams (practice).  Mixed in there will be patches of some scrimmaging.  Having the extra time I don’t think is something we need with having the amount of days we already had, but at the same time, with a couple of guys being sick, it’s going to give us a few days to get them back.”

Thomas Vanek and Craig Rivet were two of the players who were sick, according to Ruff, and were the only members of the Sabres not on the ice Monday.

Patrick Kaleta has been in and out of the lineup in recent weeks while battling a hand injury.  Kaleta practiced Monday, but Ruff said it’s too early to know if he’ll be able to return to the lineup Friday.

“I didn’t feel, myself, watching him handle the puck, that (his improvement) was significant enough to play, but we still have some days here ahead of us so we’ll see how it goes,” Ruff said.

Tim Connolly missed the last two games with a hip flexor and skated in the entire practice Monday.

“Tim is better, still feels it a little bit but he obviously got a full practice in, so hopefully tomorrow he’s better than he was today,” Ruff said.

For goalie Ryan Miller, the break was a chance to rest and recharge for the stretch run.  He talked about how the team’s 9-3-1 record over the last 13 games has put them in position to make a push for the playoffs during the second part of the season.

“It was good to go into the break on a high note.  We were playing pretty good hockey and hit a lot of our goals, and after a poor start we starting hitting some goals, so we gave ourselves an opportunity to get back in the mix,” Miller said.  “For as poorly as we started, we’re in position to do something good, we can definitely make the postseason. We can do it by playing solid hockey.”

Tyler Ennis was back in Buffalo for Monday’s practice after spending the weekend in Raleigh for the NHL SuperSkills competition and other All-Star festivities.

“It was awesome. It would be nice to be in the game one year, but it was definitely a cool experience and would be nice to do it again,” Ennis said.

Of all the star power gathered in Raleigh, Ennis said he was most excited to see Nicklas Lidstrom, Martin St. Louis and Danny Briere.  Lidstrom seemed to leave a lasting impression on the Sabres rookie.

“Growing up watching Lidstrom play, he’s one of the best d-men, maybe the best of all time, so it was really cool to see him.  He was a really nice guy.  On top of being a great player, he was a really nice guy.”

Luke Adam
Prospect Luke Adam, who has recorded four points in 18 games with the Sabres this year, is set to represent the Portland Pirates in the 2011 American Hockey League All-Star Classic Monday night in Hershey, PA.

Adam’s teammate in Portland and fellow Sabres prospect, defenseman Drew Schiestel, was originally named an AHL All-Star as well, but withdrew from the game due to injury.

In Sunday’s skills competition, Adam took part in the Accuracy Shooting contest and the Breakaway Relay, helping the Eastern Conference to win the overall competition.  He has collected 12-14-26 in just 27 games with Portland this season to rank T-11th among all AHL rookies.
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