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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
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With the preseason finished, the Buffalo Sabres are preparing for the regular season – and inching closer to having a healthy roster.

The team’s trio of injured players – Thomas Vanek [head/neck], Craig Rivet [throat] and Patrick Lalime [groin] – all participated in Tuesday’s practice at HSBC Arena, and Head Coach Lindy Ruff was encouraged.

While he was noncommittal as to whether they would be ready in time for Thursday’s season opener in Ottawa, Ruff said there is a good chance that they will be in the lineup.

“I’m not going to say one way or the other right now because Vanek had a lighter day and so did Patty,” Ruff said. “[Rivet] had some tough days and he’s cleared to go now by the doctors this morning…. whether he’s ready to play, we’ll make that decision by late in the week.”

Rivet practiced alongside Mike Weber during the skate, but with a total of eight defensemen on the roster, Ruff said the pairings have yet to be determined.

“That is today. It’s really going to depend,” Ruff said. “We’re going to give Craig another couple of real good practices. Tomorrow will be a different type of practice and we’ll get him involved in more battle drills again. If he feels good and he’s ready to play, he’ll play.”

Rivet said he is confident that he can be ready in time for the first game of the regular season and that his shoulder, which he underwent surgery for this summer, is ‘close to 100 percent.’

Vanek was also hopeful that he will be cleared to play against the Senators.

“It’s never fun to miss time, but at the same time you can’t mess around with head injuries nowadays,” he said. “It is frustrating, but at the same time it’s just been a few days so it’s not too bad.”

The Sabres were down to 24 players at Tuesday’s practice. Forward Matt Ellis was placed on waivers Monday and effectively sent to the AHL Portland Pirates.

“We know what Matty brings, obviously he’ll be an excellent depth guy for us,” Ruff said. “I think the way [Tyler] Ennis and [Nathan] Gerbe have played in the preseason have put him in the situation he’s in right now.”

Drew Stafford skated alongside Derek Roy and Ennis, while Tim Connolly centered Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville. The third line consisted of Mike Grier, Gerbe and Rob Niedermayer and the final unit was comprised of Pat Kaleta, Cody McCormick and Paul Gaustad.

The combinations are similar to those used in the final two preseason games and Ruff is hoping they continue to have some chemistry as training camp comes to a close.

“But if Vanek goes in, obviously the lines change,” Ruff said.

For full interviews, go to sabresTV.
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