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Sabres D Ruhwedel's Boston homecoming becomes secondary after marathon bombings

Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier talks with reporters after NHL hockey practice in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, April 16, 2013. In the midst of a late-season playoff push, the Buffalo Sabres are expected to take time to reflect on the tragic events that shook the Boston Marathon on Monday. The attack on the marathon is prominent for the Sabres, who were preparing to travel to play the Bruins for a game on Wednesday. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

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Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier talks with reporters after NHL hockey practice in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, April 16, 2013. In the midst of a late-season playoff push, the Buffalo Sabres are expected to take time to reflect on the tragic events that shook the Boston Marathon on Monday. The attack on the marathon is prominent for the Sabres, who were preparing to travel to play the Bruins for a game on Wednesday. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

BUFFALO, N.Y. - In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, Sabres rookie defenceman Chad Ruhwedel has one more reason to be thankful for making the jump to the NHL.

Had Ruhwedel not elected to end his college career at UMass Lowell to sign with Buffalo last weekend, he would have likely spent Monday with his friends watching the marathon not far from the finish line where two bombs exploded.

"It's kind of hit me," Ruhwedel said, after practice Tuesday. "It's hard to think about sometimes: 'I could've been there.' Fortunately, I wasn't. And I'm really praying for everyone who was."

Ruhwedel said his friends were unhurt after being not far from where three people were killed and more than 170 wounded.

And he'll get an up-close reminder of what happened later Tuesday, after the Sabres travelled to Boston, where they'll play the Bruins the following day.

The game will be the first professional sporting event to take place in Boston since the bombings.

The Bruins' home game against the Senators on Monday night was postponed to April. 28. The NBA cancelled the Celtics' home game Tuesday against Indiana. And the Red Sox have left town to open a three-game series at Cleveland.

Ruhwedel's thoughts of making a homecoming have suddenly become secondary.

"Oh, that's not important to me. I just want to make sure everybody's OK down there," said the 22-year-old, who's played two games with the Sabres. "My homecoming is nothing compared to that."

Also placed on the backburner for now, was talk of the Sabres continuing their late-season playoff push. Players and team officials were instead expressing sorrow, sympathy and dismay in the wake of the tragic events.

"Life's way more important than hockey," forward Nathan Gerbe said. "I think everyone in the world feels their pain. It's heartbreaking."

And Gerbe, who played at Boston College, acknowledged he's "a little nervous" about travelling to Boston.

"You're worried because they don't know exactly why and how and who," Gerbe said. "I don't know if I'm going to go out walking in the city or not. I'll probably just stay in the hotel and chill."

General manager Darcy Regier had no concerns, and expects a heightened security presence in the city and at the arena.

"Obviously, it affects all of us, and it's tragic and horrific. But no, I don't have reservations. You just move forward," Regier said. "It's going to be pretty difficult not to think about what happened, obviously. But ultimately, we're there to play a hockey game and focus on winning a game."

The Sabres (18-19-6) are coming off two wins that have kept them in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. With five games left, Buffalo opened Tuesday in 10th place, four points behind the New York Rangers, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Bruins (26-11-4) also have plenty to play for, sitting a point behind Northeast Division-leading Montreal.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who is from Buffalo, expressed his sympathies to victims of the bombings in a statement released on the team's website.

"I have no doubt that the amazing people in Boston will continue to display great strength and resiliency," Jacobs said. "We will be there to offer our support in any way that we can in the wake of this tragedy."

Sabres forward Steve Ott expects there to be a sombre mood inside the arena in Boston.

"Obviously, it's going to be a little bit overwhelming to start the game with heavy hearts," Ott said. "But we're going to go out there and try to play our hardest for the people, and at least try to put some smiles on the faces for at least a couple of hours, anyhow."

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