The Sabres could get one of their top defensemen back during the first round of the playoffs, with doctors determining that Jordan Leopold does not need surgery to repair the broken hand he suffered March 25.
"No [surgery], which is good," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "The way it worked out is probably the best scenario."
Ruff said Leopold, who leads Buffalo blue-liners with 13 goals, has been cleared to start skating. The time line for Leopold's recovery is four weeks, which would put the target date at April 22. That figures to be approximately Game Six of the first round of the playoffs, assuming the Sabres hold on to their postseason spot.
"He’s seen the doctor, been evaluated, and the time line will be the same," Ruff said. "He’ll be able to skate now, and hopefully it doesn’t extend it at all."
Injured goaltender Ryan Miller skated in an extended practice this morning, staying on the ice with injured forwards Patrick Kaleta and Mike Grier, and healthy-scratch defenseman Shaone Morrisonn. Ruff said it's likely Jochen Hecht, who has missed 12 of the last 16 games with an upper-body injury, will miss the final three games of the regular season.
"Jochen, there’s no time line yet," Ruff said. "At this point, it’d be pretty tough to see him."
The Sabres can get closer to clinching a playoff spot tonight by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in HSBC Arena. The Sabres are in eighth place with 90 points, and they can move into sixth place past Montreal and the New York Rangers (91 points each) with a win. The Canadiens host Chicago tonight.
"We know that we’re in a battle here," Ruff said. "We can leapfrog a couple teams tonight. We just want to concentrate, really, on 60 good minutes of hockey tonight, knowing that we’re still in one heck of a battle. There’s a group of four teams that are right around the same spot, and we’ve got to do our part. We’re fortunate we’re in a situation where we control our own destiny."
The complete audio of Ruff's news conference is below.