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BARNABY GLAD TO REJOIN SABRES

Matthew Barnaby's wait to get on the ice is over.

Barnaby ended his holdout Saturday when he agreed to a three-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres. He took a physical examination today and then joined his teammates in mid-practice at Sabreland.

"I'm very, very, very happy," Barnaby said Sunday. "It was a long time coming."

Barnaby's old contract had expired in July, leaving him a restricted free agent. Terms of the new deal were not disclosed, but a source said Barnaby will earn about $1.9 million over the life of the contract.

The 23-year-old right winger missed seven games of the regular season because of the contract squabble, but he said it was worth it.

"I think so. We got a couple of big things decided during those last two weeks," he said. "I needed to stay out. I'm glad that it's done."

The negotiations between Barnaby's agent, Larry Kelly, and the Sabres were difficult and sometimes even a bit nasty. Barnaby said in August that he wasn't sure if he'd be returning to the Sabres this season.

"It's been the toughest couple of months of my life, and the last couple of weeks have been even tougher," the forward said. "I came to the game Thursday night, and I was with the guys before they left for Washington. It was tough. I wanted to be with them, to help them win. I wasn't able to contribute.

"I hope they missed me, and I know I missed them."

Now that a deal is signed, Barnaby hopes no one has any hard feelings.

"Everyone knows this is a business. It's not the fun part of hockey," he said. "I signed a contract for three years, and we'll play it out. There won't be any renegotiations. If we weren't happy, we wouldn't have signed it."

Barnaby is hoping to return to action in the Sabres' next game, which is Thursday at home against the Montreal Canadiens, but he isn't making any guarantees.

"I don't want to force myself into a position where I might get hurt in my first game and have to sit for the next 10," he said. "If I'm not ready, I won't be in lineup; if I can, I will."

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