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Sabres Notebook: Girgensons says bye to injury

DENVER -- The bye week came in very handy for Zemgus Girgensons.

The Sabres center would have probably missed a couple more games had the team continued playing this week. But with the team off, he kept skating on his own with development coach Dennis Miller and practiced fully here Friday. He will be in the lineup for Saturday's game against the Colorado Avalanche in Pepsi Center.

Girgensons suffered a mysterious injury Feb. 6 at New Jersey, what he and the team would only acknowledge as a "mid-body" ailment. He admitted it took longer for him to heal than he expected as he missed eight games.

"It definitely fell in a good place for me," Girgensons said of the bye. "Just to get a couple more days to heal it completely and get a good skate today, so I'll be 100 percent to go."

Girgensons was joined at practice by Sam Reinhart, who is healthy after missing the two games last weekend with the flu.

Justin Bailey and Evan Rodrigues were returned to Rochester during the bye and were recalled again Friday to join the Sabres on the trip here. Nick Baptiste, who replaced Reinhart and scored his third goal of the season, was kept with the Amerks. Derek Grant, who missed the two games last weekend with a shoulder injury, was sent to Rochester.

"The games I watched, all the guys that were called up played well and the team had some good games," Girgensons said. "It was really nice to see young guys doing their job, playing with passion and it's something we need."

The Sabres reunited Reinhart in his normal spot at right wing with Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Girgensons skated between Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta. Rodrigues, who was between those two players prior to the bye, shifted down to center Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis. Bailey remained with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo.

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Coach Dan Bylsma, an avid fisherman from his days growing up in Michigan, didn't take off during the bye. He just hit the water on area creeks and the Niagara River. Bylsma said he caught a couple of sizeable steelheads.

"The fishing was good, it wasn't great," Bylsma said. "I've had it better at different times but it was going fishing when you can, not necessarily when it was good. We caught a few steelhead and caught a couple real nice ones on the lower Niagara River. Nice pictures. We took them four or five times so it looks like we caught 10 fish."

Something fishy going on with Bylsma during Sabres bye week

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The Avalanche will be without former Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov for Saturday's game as he is out for the season with a fractured ankle suffered during a collision in practice Monday. Zadorov had 10 assists and a minus-20 rating in 56 games this season.

But Colorado will get the return of defenseman Erik Johnson, who hasn’t played since suffering a broken fibula against Dallas on Dec. 3.

The Avalanche were 9-9 when they started a five-game homestand on Nov. 18. They went 0-4-1 on that stand and the final game saw Johnson, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft, injured bocking a Tyler Seguin shot in the second period of a 3-0 loss.

Since getting to that .500 point with a 3-2 win in Columbus, the Avs are just 7-30-3. They enter Saturday 1-6-1 in their last eight games, and 3-14-2 in the last 19.

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Friday was the 35th anniversary of what rates as the most memorable night by a Sabres opponent in Memorial Auditorium. On Feb. 24, 1982, Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky scored his 77th goal of the season to break Phil Esposito's single-season record. The goal against Don Edwards came with 6:36 left in the game and snapped a 3-3 tie.

Gretzky added two more goals, including an empty netter, to complete a natural hat trick and give the Oilers a 6-3 win in a game that saw Sabres Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault score all three Buffalo goals.

"I just kept trying. You can score a goal until the last second of the game," Gretzky told NHL.com in a story published Friday. "The first thing that came into my head was that it put us up 4-3. Then there was relief and a sense of satisfaction and it took a lot of pressure off me."

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