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Despite injury issues, surging Sabres begin preparations for Philadelphia

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Buffalo Sabres enter the NHL post-season with some lingering injury issues.

So what?

The Sabres finished the regular season with only one regulation loss in their last 13 games and went 29-11-6 since new owner Terry Pegula purchased the team Dec. 28. The 64 points they accumulated were the most in the Eastern Conference over than span.

The Sabres open their series with the Atlantic Division-champion Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. Asked about his team's health, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said it was "in the mediocre category" but didn't seem concerned.

"That's tough to assess," Ruff said Monday in HSBC Arena. "I think we've done well with a pretty good crop of good players that are sitting on the sidelines, and we still have them sitting there."

Most importantly, goaltender Ryan Miller and top scorer Thomas Vanek declared they were ready to play.

Miller, the NHL's best goalie last season, has played 52 minutes since March 29 while coming back from a shoulder injury. And Vanek was hampered by a charley horse, but scored the playoff-clinching goal in a 4-3 overtime victory against the Flyers on Friday night.

The rest of the injury report was vague.

On defenceman Jordan Leopold's broken left thumb, Ruff claimed he didn't know whether Leopold could play against Philadelphia. Leopold has missed eight games. Defenceman Andrej Sekera didn't practise Monday because of an upper-body injury, but he worked out on his own and might be able to skate Tuesday.

Ruff said forward Jochen Hecht was "not close" to returning to the ice because of an upper-body injury that kept him out of the final six games and 15 of his past 19. Hecht is holding out hope he can return before the end of the series.

Ruff noted forward Mike Grier should be OK for the start of the series, but Grier has missed the past seven games with a lower-body injury.

Centre Derek Roy, the team's leading scorer when he suffered a torn quadriceps in December, skated with the Sabres, but has been ruled out for the first round.

And surging centre Tim Connolly, who has a long injury history, was given Monday off.

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