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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres returned to the ice on Monday following a day off.  Ryan Miller, who missed Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay with a groin problem, was on the ice and participated in the full practice.  Miller said the injury occurred late in the third period of Friday’s win over Los Angeles.  He finished the game, but gave way to Patrick Lalime for Saturday’s game and took advantage of Sunday’s off day.

The Sabres return to game action on Wednesday when they host Pittsburgh, and Miller was not yet prepared to say whether or not he would play. 

“I’m not going to go that far yet,” Miller said when asked about the Penguins game.  “Today was good because we had Sunday off from the ice and I obviously had Saturday off, so that’s two days off.  I’ll see where I’m at today, see how it reacts, and then tomorrow will be a much better indicator.” 

Head Coach Lindy Ruff was pleased to see Miller get through all of Monday’s practice, but reiterated that they would “take it a day at a time” in regard to his ability to return to the lineup.

Ruff spent much of his media availability on Monday updating the status of injured players.  In addition to commenting on Miller, Ruff also revealed that Rob Niedermayer underwent a “minor arthroscopic knee procedure” today and would be out of the lineup for at least two weeks.

“He felt it in the preseason,” Ruff said of Niedermayer’s knee injury.  “He’s been trying to play through it.  It hasn’t been getting any better so the decision finally was to try and relieve some of that.”

Jochen Hecht also missed Monday’s practice with what Ruff described as a minor upper body injury, but Ruff said Hecht should be able to play Wednesday.  Hecht’s linemate, Tim Connolly, was on the ice to start practice but left midway through the session with a groin problem.  His status for Wednesday was not immediately known.

With the injuries mounting among forwards, Ruff said the team would have to recall at least one, possibly two, players from Portland of the AHL.

There was some good news on the injury front, however.  Drew Stafford, who has been out with an upper body injury for the last eight games, skated with the team today and is moving closer to rejoining the lineup, but did not put a timetable on exactly when he would return.

“I would say he’s close,” Ruff said, but added they he would not likely be ready to play Wednesday against Pittsburgh.

Stafford has been able to skate on his own while rehabbing his injury, but was happy to be participating in a full team practice.

“I’m just glad to be back practicing with the guys,” he said.

During Stafford’s absence, the Sabres have posted a 5-2-1 record, and Stafford is eager to get back in the lineup and help his teammates.

“On one hand, I’m so happy for the boys.  We’ve been winning games and you want to be a part of that.  At the same time, if we lose a game, you want to be a part of it because we’re all a team in here and you want to try and help out anyway you can, so it’s frustrating when you miss games.”

Prior to the injury, Stafford had registered four goals and four assists in 14 games.

Following practice, Jordan Leopold, Steve Montador and Nathan Gerbe headed to Catholic Charities Fulton Street Pantry.  The Sabres organization and players chipped in to support local families this holiday season by purchasing 300 meals for area families that requested assistance through Catholic Charities. The players were on hand today as the families arrived to pick up their food.
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