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Three regulars may be out at start

The Buffalo Sabres could open the season without three regulars, including top defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, because of injuries.

With only a few days to go before the curtain goes up, Kalinin injured his groin during Thursday's practice in HSBC Arena and needed assistance leaving the ice. He will not play when the Sabres meet the Minnesota Wild at 7:30 tonight in Rochester.

The severity of Kalinin's injury wasn't immediately known. He will be re-evaluated today, but the Sabres are optimistic. "It's pretty much day-to-day," said Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier. "I wouldn't view it as critical or serious."

Kalinin already had been banged up. Ruff revealed Kalinin was held out of Wednesday night's game against the Ottawa Senators because of a sore back aggravated in a hard fall during Tuesday night's victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Forward Adam Mair also has missed considerable time with a groin injury and still is considered day-to-day. The Sabres don't expect Andrew Peters to be cleared for practice until early next week.

The Sabres will open the season Wednesday against the New York Islanders in HSBC Arena.

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There could be a silver lining to having a player or two temporarily out of commission. If the Sabres place anyone on injured reserve, they would have that much more time to make a tough personnel decision because players on IR don't count toward the 23-man roster.

"Maybe your decisions don't play themselves out all at once," Regier said, "and in some ways it could delay the process."

The Sabres have 28 players on their roster and must trim it by Tuesday afternoon.

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Preseason polls haven't been kind to the Sabres. The consensus is that they won't be good enough to reach the playoffs.

Sports Illustrated ranked the Sabres the sixth-worst team in the NHL. The Canadian Press slotted them 11th in the Eastern Conference. Four of CBS SportsLine's five experts picked the Sabres to finish last in the Northeast Division, with the other soothsayer pegging them fourth.

"The challenge is on," Ruff said. "We like where we're at, but we have to go out and prove it."

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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