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Sabres notebook: Ennis feeling better, is close to returning

The week-to-week status of Tyler Ennis has shifted to day-to-day.

The forward again skated on his own, then joined the handful of Buffalo Sabres taking an optional practice Wednesday morning at First Niagara Center in anticipation of Thursday’s home game against the Anaheim Ducks.

As has been usual in Ennis sightings the last three weeks, he was sporting the red “no contact” jersey on the ice as he continues to come back from an upper body injury which he said happened in his last game, Nov. 23 against St. Louis. Since then, he’s been on injured reserve, missing 11 games.

“It was just my last game,” Ennis said Wednesday when asked when he suffered the injury. “So, body’s a strange thing. I just didn’t feel great and starting to feel really good now, which is a good thing.”

The absence of Ennis has caused a shifting of lines by coach Dan Bylsma, perhaps more than usual in his scheme. It also has caused some shifts in the power play to make up for the loss of the dynamic playmaking ability of Ennis.

“We’ve had to make some adjustments and put people in different spots on our power play and that’s all happened with Tyler out of the lineup,” Bylsma said. “I know we’re coming into a break here after the next two games and hopefully we can get him back sooner rather than later.”

For his part, Ennis feels good both skating and with his off-ice workouts. Looking to find ways to mitigate the frustrations of sitting out, Ennis sees a silver lining in his prolonged time out of the lineup.

“I’m just going to look at it as an opportunity to get in great shape,” Ennis said. “I’ve had some good skates and some good bike rides and I felt good. My body feels good. Maybe I can come back with a little more energy than some of the teams who have been in the grind the whole time. Maybe I’ll be in better shape than them.”

While neither Ennis nor Bylsma ruled out a return for Saturday’s game against Chicago, the more likely scenario has the forward back after the holiday break.

But whenever he returns, Ennis knows what he wants to improve on from his first half of the season:

“Well I’d like to score a little more,” he said. “I haven’t put the puck in as much as I’ve wanted to. That’s one thing I want to improve on but it just comes down to simplicity – working as hard as you can and doing the little things and the goals will come.”

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Bylsma said forward Marcus Foligno is day-to-day with an upper body injury he suffered in the Sabres’ 2-1 win in Detroit on Monday.

“It happened in the game in Detroit, which he played with through that game,” Bylsma said.

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While the Sabres are trying to catch their breath from a brutal stretch of schedule that has them playing five games in eight days on the heels of a three-game western road trip, Anaheim is pretty well rested.

The Ducks arrived in town on Tuesday and their time on Wednesday included a workout at IMPACT Sports Performance in HarborCenter.

This after the Ducks had a six-game homestand. Anaheim went 3-3 in that stretch, opening with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and ending with a disappointing 5-1 loss to Carolina on Friday.

The Ducks are last in the Pacific Division with 27 points (11-13-5) and 28th overall in the NHL ahead only of Columbus (11-19-3) and Toronto (10-13-6) heading into Wednesday’s games.

Thursday’s meeting with the Sabres kicks off a four-game northeastern trip for the Ducks, who face New Jersey, the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers before the holiday break.

“There’s a sense of urgency to get points,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Everybody knows the importance of that this week. The thing is, we have to win. We have to win because players want to win. They’re used to winning and don’t like losing and we want to be where we should be.”

Back with the Ducks is winger Jiri Sekac, who has been out of the lineup with a serious ankle sprain since early November. Sekac completed a one-game conditioning assignment with the team’s AHL affiliate in San Diego and skated with the team during practice at First Niagara Center on Wednesday.

“It was my choice after they offered me to go there,” Sekac said of his game with the Gulls in which he scored a goal. “I agreed to it because I think it’s better to actually find out if the injury is 100 percent, if I’m able to play instead of coming into a game here and then leaving halfway through. It was definitely helpful for me and I’m glad I went down there.”

His return will be critical for the Ducks, who lost Nate Thompson to a three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk in their last game.

“I think, first off, he’ll bring energy because anybody that’s out and gets a chance to play is full of energy,” Boudreau said. “He can skate. He’s going to bring us some energy and speed. It’s needed now that Nate is out for three games. It’s important (that Sekac) is back and ready to play.”

email: amoritz@buffnews.com

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