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by Brian Wheeler / Buffalo Sabres
Defenseman Teppo Numminen
The Buffalo Sabres received an emotional lift just two days before they open the regular season against the New York Islanders.

Defenseman Teppo Numminen returned to HSBC Arena for the first time since undergoing corrective heart surgery on a faulty heart valve in Cleveland, O.H. in late September.

Numminen was in high spirits as he watched the team practice on Wednesday morning.

Video: Teppo Numminen Interview

"I feel good, really good," said Numminen.  "Things are going well and every day I'm feeling better.

"It was a great day for me to come here.  It's just exciting to see everybody and you really come to appreciate what you have."

The 18-year NHL veteran stated that his surgery was a complete success and that he should have a full recovery.

Numminen is currently restricted from physical activity and from operating an automobile for the next six weeks until his ribs heal from the procedure.  Currently, he has been taking walks for exercise, but is hopeful that he can begin riding a stationary bicycle later next week.

"It's been amazing what one day makes," said Numminen.  "Everyday, I've been feeling better.  There is actually no pain right now.

"I'll start going to rehab next week [in Buffalo].  We'll see how things are going to go.  I think that six-week [period] is the main cure.  It's the major date to make sure that everything heals well.

"After that, I think it's back to hockey stuff."

Numminen said that he would make his decision whether or not to return to the Sabres lineup once the six-week term is completed and not before.

"It's exciting to be here again," said Numminen.  "I promised myself before the surgery that I'm not going to make any decisions before I'm healthy. 

"You get so emotional and you go through so many thoughts and things during at the time.  So right now, I'm concentrating on getting healthy and then moving on."

Numminen learned he required surgery after a routine checkup in Cleveland earlier in September. Barring complications in his recovery, the 39-year-old said prior to the surgery that he's determined to resume playing and could return to the lineup as soon as December.

The Finnish player has had a heart murmur since childhood and was diagnosed with a dilated aorta in March 2004, when he was playing for the Dallas Stars. Numminen missed five games because of the condition before he was cleared to play.

The condition also forced him to miss one game and part of another during a playoff series against Philadelphia in spring 2006.

Numminen said he's had two "procedures" to alleviate the problem, but noted this time it's different. He said doctors would work on his heart by opening his rib cage.

"They said I should be able to do everything that I had done in the past," said Numminen.  "Everything should be normal and I should be 100 percent."
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