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The Buffalo Sabres' blue liners are a bit hobbled heading into tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens in HSBC Arena.

Defensemen Richard Smehlik and Dmitri Kalinin both left Thursday's practice early with injuries. Smehlik is still trying to get over a pulled groin muscle, and Kalinin took a shot off his lower ankle during a drill.

Smehlik is likely out for tonight's game and possibly Saturday's game in New Jersey. Kalinin is expected to play tonight, but coach Lindy Ruff said the team might recall an emergency backup from Rochester.

The likely candidates are Brian Campbell and Rory Fitzpatrick. The loss of either wouldn't devastate the Amerks since Henrik Tallinder, who sprained his knee during training camp, was cleared to resume playing in Rochester tonight.

Smehlik hurt his groin during Monday's practice and missed Tuesday's 4-1 victory over San Jose. He tried to practice for the first time Thursday but couldn't finish.

"He was starting to feel it again, so we decided just to get him off the ice," Ruff said. "If he's feeling it now, it probably can only get worse by continuing to practice him.

"It doesn't really look good for (tonight)."

Kalinin dropped to all fours after a hard shot struck his skate, but Ruff said, "He's going to be fine. I think he just bruised his foot."
Ruff commented again on the verbal salvos being fired by Canadiens center Doug Gilmour. The former Sabre has accused Buffalo management of ruining his career by misusing him as a left wing last season. He also claimed the Sabres sabotaged a potential contract with the Ottawa Senators.

"Obviously, disappointed in that," Ruff said of Gilmour's bitterness. "I spent different parts of the year talking to Doug about different situations and where I played him. For the most part he felt comfortable with it until he left. He felt differently after he was gone, and I can't do anything about that now."
Gilmour also accused Sabres winger J.P. Dumont of causing Canadiens goalie Jeff Hackett's separated shoulder 13 seconds into their game Saturday.

Gilmour claimed Dumont deliberately skated into Hackett when the goalie was trying to cover the puck. But even Hackett said, "He didn't do anything wrong. He was chasing the puck. There was some contact, but I got hurt when I dove."

Hackett will be sidelined up to two months.

"That's the kind of guy (Gilmour) is," Dumont said. "He's an agitator, and when he's on the ice he wants to create stuff, especially against us. He knows a few things he can do to try to lose our mind for us. . . . We know what he's going to try to do, so we have to be ready."
The Sabres will be collecting nonperishable food items for The News Neediest Fund tonight through Nov. 16. In exchange for donations, fans will receive a buy-one-ticket, get-one-free coupon for one of the following games: Tampa Bay Lightning (Nov. 2), Atlanta Thrashers (Nov. 8), Florida Panthers (Nov. 16) and New York Rangers (Nov. 27). Tickets for each game are based on availability.

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