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Injured Mair joins teammates on ice

WASHINGTON -- Adam Mair still doesn't know when he'll be cleared to play in a game, but the Buffalo Sabres forward was thrilled merely to be back on the ice with his teammates again.

Mair skated with the Sabres before Tuesday night's game with the Washington Capitals in the Verizon Center. It was the first time he had worked out with the boys since he suffered a concussion in early January. He has missed 21 games and counting.

"It gives you an opportunity to feel like you're part of the team again," said Mair, while resting on the visitors' bench. "You didn't feel that you had much purpose as a hockey player, couldn't join in any team activities.

"Being able to get a good sweat on the ice and the burn in the legs and the burn in the lungs and score a couple goals, it felt nice."

The gritty forward experienced concussion symptoms so serious he spent five days at St. Joseph's Hospital in his hometown of Hamilton, Ont. His injury was feared to be as nasty as the one that kept center Tim Connolly sidelined the entire 2003-04 campaign.

But based on Mair's appearance Tuesday, his return could happen this month. He said he wasn't working on any timetable, only a steady day-to-day progression toward full strength.

The next step is being cleared for full contact.

"I set personal goals, but they have to fall in line with what the doctors say and what the coaches and [General Manager Darcy Regier] says about inserting me back in the lineup. Obviously, I would like to get back ASAP, making sure that my health is 100 percent and there's no further risk of worsening."

Mair said he dropped only a few pounds since the injury, but one can tell how his muscle tone diminished while unable to exercise for what he said was "six to seven weeks of zero activity." Mair estimated that was the longest he had gone without training since he was 12.

"The highest amount of activity was walking," he said. "No wonder you would lose your muscle mass and strength."

It was easy to understand why he stayed on the ice for more than an hour, working out with healthy scratches Taylor Pyatt and Andrew Peters long after the others had called it a day.

Mair was asked where he thought he fit in the Sabres' lineup, given the glut of forwards.

"Right now I'm just focusing on getting my game and my conditioning level back, but I know that I can contribute and be a positive influence in a game," he said. "I think the coaching staff knows that, too."

***

Sabres center Tim Connolly left the game in the third period with what is believed to be a minor knee injury. He will be re-evaluated today. . . . Rory Fitzpatrick was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game, as was Pyatt. Peters hasn't played since Feb. 12.

***

The Capitals recalled former Sabres prospect Jakub Klepis before the game and reassigned forwards Kris Beech and Boyd Gordon to the minors.

The Sabres acquired Klepis, the 16th pick of the 2002 draft, from the Ottawa Senators in February 2003. The Sabres dealt him to the Capitals for winger Mike Grier in March 2004.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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