By John Vogl
Nathan Gerbe is excited. His back feels good, so that means he's ready to be back.
The Sabres left winger got through a full practice on a regular line today in First Niagara Center, and he feels ready to make his season debut Thursday in Carolina.
"I hope I’m playing," said Gerbe, who still had to meet with doctors to be formally cleared to come off injured reserve for his offseason back surgery.
"It’s been a very long, long, long recovery for me. I’ve been out since basically April, and to come back this is my first game lockout or no lockout, this is about the time I’d be ready anyways, so I’m pretty excited.
"Hopefully, all the hard work I put in the last six months is going to help."
If the Sabres activate Gerbe, they'll need to clear a roster spot. It's possible Ville Leino could go on IR. He skipped practice after missing the first two games with a leg injury.
"It just seemed like he wasn’t gaining any traction by trying to skate and see where’s he at," coach Lindy Ruff said. "The thought now is maybe give him a couple days off the ice and see if we can improve his situation that way."
Ruff gave a strong hint that goaltender Jhonas Enroth will make his first start of the season Thursday. The Sabres play the Hurricanes on back-to-back nights, so that would give Ryan Miller an extra day of rest before the Friday home game.
"It’s important to get him going," Ruff said of Enroth. "We’ve got five games in really less than eight days. You look at it that way, we need to get him in there. At the same time, we need to keep Ryan fresh.
"I thought he looked great that whole week of camp, and the longer you wait I think it’s tough on him. The sooner we get it in the better."