|Tim Connolly (Photo: Getty Images) |
Tim Connolly won’t play scared.
Even after missing 24 games and nearly eight weeks of the season with a broken rib, the centerman said he will continue to play his game when he returns to the lineup Friday night - in time to take on the New York Rangers.
“I’m not going to shy away from getting hit,” Connolly said. “It happens out there. When you have the puck a lot obviously you have more of a chance to get hit.
“It’s not something I try to think about. I think about what’s in my control and that’s trying to get in shape to play the game.”
Connolly was injured Nov. 12 when he took a punishing hit along the boards from St. Louis Blues’ winger Keith Tkachuk. The blow came just two weeks after Connolly returned to the lineup from a pair of fractured vertebrae in his back, an injury that caused him to miss the first 10 games of the season.
“He doesn’t play like he’s been hurt. I think you’ve got to give him credit for that,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. “He doesn’t go out and play a soft game. If he went out and played a soft game, he would have totally avoided the play against the St. Louis player. But he didn’t. He’s the type of guy that wants to take the puck into traffic and wants to draw people to him and he wants to use that ability to open people up.
“That puts him sometimes in jeopardy of suffering some tough hits.”
Over the last five seasons, Connolly has missed 249 games out of a possible 368 regular season contests.
He missed the entire 2003-04 campaign recovering from a head injury he suffered in exhibition against Chicago. He also was out for the majority of 2006-07 season recovering from a concussion he sustained in the 2006 playoffs against Ottawa.
|Tim Connolly (Photo: Getty Images) |
“His greatest gift is his ability to draw people to him and open people up,” Ruff said. “Sometimes he puts himself in harm’s way. That’s his greatest gift and there is no fear when he does it.”
Ruff sympathizes with Connolly. As an NHL defenseman in 1980s, Ruff went through his share of ailments – including a broken femur and broken ankle.
“I went through a lot of injuries I missed a lot of games, missed over 200 games,” Ruff said. “At the end it was tough because seemed like you were hurt a lot and you feel that pressure.
“All he wants to do is bounce back. He wants to play and stay healthy.”
In the six games that Connolly has been able to participate in, he has tallied seven points (2+5) and could be the difference as the Sabres look to battle for a playoff spot.
“The only thing I can control is going out there, playing the game and playing to the best of my ability,” Connolly said. “We have to go out there and win hockey games and concentrate on getting this team to the playoffs."
Toni Lydman is also expected to be in the lineup Friday. The blueliner missed Tuesday’s game against Ottawa with the flu.
With Lydman back in, the Sabres have eight defenseman on the roster likely making Chris Butler the odd-man out. Butler has played nine games in his first career stint with the Sabres, earning an assist and a plus-three rating.
“He has played very well,” Ruff said of the 22 year old. “On a whole these last games we have battled hard as a defensive group. Our defensive core has played well. We’ll go through practice tomorrow and just evaluate where we’re at and make a decision. Butler at the same time has held himself very well.”
The team did not skate Wednesday after capturing their third consecutive win last night, 4-2 over the Ottawa Senators. Ruff opted for off-ice workouts instead.
Ruff addressed the incident with Andrew Peters and Jarkko Ruutu
, in which Ruutu bit the right glove-hand of the Sabres’ enforcer as they grappled alongside Ottawa’s bench.
The NHL suspended Ruutu two games today for his actions. Click here
“It’s something to talk about,” Ruff said. “The games needed a little spice and we got a little spice. Then we had that [brawl game
] fiasco a couple years ago which drew a little interest. This is probably going to draw a little bit less.
“I think what made it even worse is that when [Peters] went to serve the penalty he didn’t take his gloves or his stick with him. Then we get him a stick and he still doesn’t have any gloves. Then we take him one glove. Then we take him two left gloves. The fiasco just continued.”
Lydman told the media today that he played with Ruutu in Finland. The countrymen were on HIFK Helsinki in the Finnish National League during the 1998-99 season.
“He’s a character,” Lydman said. “But he’s a different guy off the ice than he is on the ice. That’s for sure.
“As long as I remember he was always like that [an agitator]. He is pretty good at what he does.
“[With me] it’s kind of in one ear and out the other. Plus I don’t really get the jokes.”