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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Craig Rivet (Photo: Getty Images)
Back-to-back wins are not the only thing the Buffalo Sabres have to be happy about.

After defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins this weekend, the Sabres received more good news today, learning they will also have their captain back.

Tim Connolly Interview
Matt Ellis Interview
Jason Pominville Interview
Craig Rivet Interview
Derek Roy Interview
Lindy Ruff Interview

Craig Rivet is expected to play in Tuesday’s match-up against the Ottawa Senators after missing the last 11 contests. The game would be his first since Dec. 10.

“As long as everything went well at practice, he’ll be back in,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said.

Rivet has been skating with the team for the last three weeks nursing a shoulder injury. The blueliner was sidelined for two games in the first week of December with the same complications, and after the pain flared up again Dec. 12 the team opted to evaluate their captain in two-week blocks.

“It felt good,” Rivet said of his shoulder following practice Monday. “The last week or so I really tried to push hard on it and see kind of where it’s at. It has responded real well. Obviously practice is not game-situation, that’s something that I will be finding out very soon.”

Rivet may be what the Sabres need to overcome one of their biggest concerns this season – playing at home. When he is in the lineup, the Sabres are 7-3-1 at HSBC Arena. Without Rivet, they hold a 3-6-1 record.

Against the Senators, the Sabres have not faired any better. Last season Ottawa won three of four match-ups in Buffalo, scoring at least five goals in each victory. The teams have met only once this season – a 5-2 loss for Buffalo on Oct. 27 at home.

“I think you’ve seen what [Paul] Gaustad has done for our lineup. I think Craig on the backend gives us a little more stiffness, a little more dirt in the lineup,” Ruff said. “We’ve our captain back, we’ve got grit back.”

“With our last two games now I’m wondering how I’m going to get back in the lineup,” Rivet said. “The guys have put the work in… they did a lot of great things in our last couple games that we are going to want to build off of.

“It comes down to work. That is something that we are going to have to put in tomorrow night [against Ottawa]… [The Senators] are going through a tough time right now, but sometimes those are the hardest teams to play against… if we play our game and not worry about them, we will be okay.”

Rivet may be returning, but the Sabres will have to do without Maxim Afinogenov for now.

Afinogenov missed the majority of Saturday’s 4-2 win in Boston after suffering a groin injury in the first period. The winger took a hard hit from Zdeno Chara and did not return to the ice.

“Max is going to have further tests today, evaluate where [he is],” Ruff said. “I don’t think it’s short term. It could be a little while.”

Afinogenov missed 25 games last season due to a groin injury. He has 12 points (2+10) in 34 games this year.

Tim Connolly (photo: Bill Wippert)
Ruff said there have been no decisions made as to whether another forward will be called up from the AHL Portland Pirates.

“But we have options,” Ruff said.

One of them may be centerman Tim Connolly who is nearing a return.

Connolly suffered a broken rib Nov. 12 against the St. Louis Blues after taking a hard hit from winger Keith Tkachuk. He played the following game against Columbus on Nov. 14, but has since missed the last 23 games.

“Our plan right now [is] that he will play by the weekend,” Ruff said. “We know that if we can get him healthy and get him back and get him playing, we know what he can mean to us… I would love to get him in and playing well because before he went out he was playing well and a guy that we used in every situation.”

In six games this season Connolly has recorded seven points (2+5). The centerman missed the first 10 games of the year due to a pair of fractured vertebrae in his back.

“It’s not something you can dwell on,” Connolly said of the injuries. “We still have a lot of season left ahead of us. We are in a fight for a playoff spot right now and that’s our main focus.

"But I feel pretty good.”

Teppo Numminen’s status is uncertain for Tuesday’s game against the Senators. The defenseman was absent from practice due to illness and will be revaluated tomorrow.
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