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Knee brace saves Connolly from a twist of fate

Brace yourself. It appears Darius Kasparaitis may have done Tim Connolly a favor.

When Kasparaitis' hit sprained the medial collateral ligament of the Buffalo Sabres center in January, no one thought anything positive could come of it. But Connolly has been wearing a brace on the left knee since returning last Thursday, and it saved him from another tear Tuesday night.

Connolly attempted to check a Washington player near center ice late in the game, and his left skate caught in the ice and contorted his knee to a funky angle. He was bent over at the bench and didn't return to the ice, but he was fine at practice Wednesday in HSBC Arena. It appears the brace necessitated by Kasparaitis' hit saved Connolly's knee.

"I looked at the hit afterward, we talked about it," Connolly said, "and anybody who didn't have a brace on there and had not even had an MCL injury, they probably would have injured their MCL the way that my leg bent.

"But the brace was there to hold it in place. If I hadn't been hurt and hadn't had the brace on, I probably would have hurt it."

Still, don't expect Connolly to send the New York Rangers defenseman a thank-you card. Connolly had an arduous task the past two months getting the knee back into shape. He missed 12 games before returning against Tampa Bay, and he'll play in his fifth straight tonight when the Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the sold-out arena.

"I rehabbed it as hard as I possibly could. It was a lot of hard work," said Connolly, whose knee hasn't been an issue during his comeback. "It's out of your mind when you're out there. Every once in a while you feel that you have a brace on your leg, so you can feel that it doesn't feel exactly normal.

"But when you're out there you're not thinking about your knee, you're thinking about the game."

***

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was not at practice Wednesday. His 11-year-old daughter, Madeleine, had a doctor's appointment, and Ruff attended with his wife, Gaye.

There was no further comment on Madeleine, who was diagnosed with an unidentified mass on her brain last week.

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In a season full of records and accolades, the Sabres have matched another one.

They have scored six or more goals in four straight games, tying a team record set in November 1974 and matched in January 1982.

To beat the Capitals, 6-4, the Sabres had to erase a two-goal deficit. It was the sixth time they'd done so this season, second in the Eastern Conference to only Carolina's 10 deficit erasers.

On the flip side, a two-goal advantage for the Sabres has meant "game over" for the opponents. The Sabres (27-0) and San Jose Sharks (24-0) are the only teams to win every game in which they've led by two.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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