The Sabres' lineup will be a question mark up until tonight's Game Seven faceoff, with injuries and absences sticking with the team heading into the biggest game of the season.
Patrick Kaleta, Mike Grier and Jordan Leopold missed the morning skate in Wells Fargo Center, while Jochen Hecht and Andrej Sekera took part but remain questionable to face the Flyers. Kaleta is definitely out with what's believed to be a hand injury, though he played three shifts in overtime of Game Six, including the final one when Ville Leino scored. Grier and Leopold are game-time decisions, coach Lindy Ruff said.
Hecht hasn't played since March 29 because of an upper-body injury. The forward chatted after practice but gave no clear indication of whether he's available.
"I’m getting better every day," Hecht said. "Am I playable? It’s a close call. It’s nerve-wracking sitting out. It would make it a lot easier on my nerves just to play. It’s definitely hard to watch.
"The guys that play tonight, they want to come out hard. From the first minute on, they’re going to lay everything on the line. It’s blocking shots, playing the body –- there’s no hesitation. There’s no saving it for the next game."
The Sabres will get Derek Roy back, but he showed during practice there will be an adjustment period. Ruff and assistant coach Brian McCutcheon shook their head during a power-play drill when Roy failed to see an open player. McCutcheon skated to Roy after the drill for a chat.
"Between the regular season and playoffs, there’s another notch there where it’s got to be quicker and faster," Ruff said. "The intensity is a lot greater, so things are going to have to happen quicker. It might take him a few shifts, but I think he’s up to the task.
"We need him to do a lot. We need him to step in and be a big player. It’s tough. He hasn’t been in a game in four months, but we’re ready to give it a go."
Ruff said all the players who will be in the lineup are ready.
"It’s a one-game showdown that we’re looking forward to," Ruff said. "We’ve got a chance to do something real special. We need a smile on somebody’s face after the game like Tyler Ennis. That’s all we need. You try to get your players to embrace the fact that these Game Sevens don’t come along very often. It’s been one heck of a series, and we need some guys to step through and be the hero for us."
To hear from Ruff, Roy and Hecht, click the audio files below.