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Three injured players return to Wednesday's practice

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

A strong effort in a win over the Washington Capitals translated to a light practice on Wednesday for the Buffalo Sabres. The team took the ice for a short session at KeyBank Center sans Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, both of whom were given maintenance days after playing 21-plus minutes on Tuesday. 

According to Phil Housley, it was exactly the kind of practice the Sabres had earned. 

"Typically, they drive that themselves in their game the night before," the Sabres coach said. "I thought they worked really hard so we kept it a little bit lighter and tried to work on the offensive part of their game."

 Video: Sabres Now (11/8/17)

With two days separating the Sabres from their next game, at home against Florida on Friday, the light session also served as an opportunity for three injured players to acclimate to being back on the ice with the team. Defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and Josh Gorges both skated with the team for the second day in a row, while Justin Bailey made his return after missing the last three games.

The impending return of Beaulieu and Gorges adds some much-needed depth to the Sabres defense corps, which has also been without Zach Bogosian since the start of the regular season and more recently lost Rasmus Ristolainen and Matt Tennyson, both of whom are day-to-day. 

Gorges, who has missed the last eight games due to a lower-body injury, said that he feels he's back to game shape.

"I feel ready, that is now up to the coaching staff and what they feel is best," he said. "I put myself in a position to train hard and got myself feeling good again, so no questions on my part."

Video: After Practice: HOUSLEY

The injury came at an inopportune for Gorges, who had to wait until the fourth game of the season before getting his first opportunity to join the lineup. He sustained his injury in his third game, against Anaheim on Oct. 15, and played the following game in Vegas before being forced to sit out.

"That was a bit of the frustrating part," Gorges said. "Obviously with the way that the season started, you want to get in there. I finally get a chance and it felt like things were getting better each game and progressing. Something like that happens, it sets you back and takes you back out of the lineup.

"It's frustrating, no doubt, because you want to be in there and you want to prove what you can do to help this team. But I've been down this road, unfortunately, a few too many times."

Beaulieu sustained his injury during Buffalo's home game against Vancouver on Oct. 20. He said he's taking his rehabilitation one day at a time, although it's fair to say he'd like to be back in time for Saturday, when the Sabres travel to Montreal to face his former team.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "I've had that one circled for a while. But I've got to understand it's a long season and I don't want to rush anything."

Bailey said his lower-body injury occurred during a practice, although it wasn't until he woke up the following day that he realized it was something that would force him to miss time.

In seven games this season, Bailey has scored two goals and an assist while averaging a career-high 11:53 of ice time. 

"That's just the way sports are," he said. "It could come on a high, it could come on a low. For me, I just want to not miss a step, try and get back up to game speed as quickly as possible and make an impact to the best of my abilities."

The Sabres will return to practice on Thursday at 11 a.m. 

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