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Playoff tickets are back!

For the first time in five years, the Buffalo Sabres have made the following announcement:

Playoff tickets go on sale soon.

The Sabres said Wednesday individual game tickets for the opening round of the playoffs will go on sale at 9 a.m. April 10. The first three home games of the conference quarterfinals will be available, with the dates and opponent still to be determined.

Tickets will cost $120 for the 200 Level, $110 for 100 Level Preferred, $95 for 100 Level II, $80 for 100 Level III, $60 for 300 Level I and $50 for 300 Level II.

Fans can save up to 75 percent on playoff tickets by placing a 30 percent deposit on 2006-07 season tickets. Playoff prices for the first two rounds for season-ticket holders are at regular-season "value game" prices.

Tickets will be available at the HSBC Arena box office, Tickets.com and its outlets in Tops Markets, and at (888) 223-6000.

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Tim Connolly returned from his left medial collateral ligament injury Wednesday, the center's first game since March 14 against Washington. He has missed 19 games this season because of the knee, which was also injured Jan. 24 against the New York Rangers.

Connolly is wearing a brace on the left knee and will continue to do so for up to a year.

"An MCL for it to fully heal takes six to 12 months," Connolly said. "For that period of time you're supposed to wear the brace, but after that I don't see me wearing it."

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Defenseman Dmitri Kalinin was a late addition to the Sabres' lineup. He was announced as a scratch on the roster sheet and the public address announcement, then was added in place of Rory Fitzpatrick.

Kalinin, scratched for Monday's shootout loss to the Rangers, heard from coach Lindy Ruff at the morning skate. The coach loudly yelled at the defenseman during a drill for being lax. Kalinin came back down the next time and buried a shot under the crossbar.

"We need the guys that are playing the hardest and playing the best to play," Ruff said. "Is it a big difference [between Kalinin and Fitzpatrick]? Probably not. But there's a fine line to get in, and a fine line to get out right now.

"That's all we want, just hard work and passion."

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Defenseman Jay McKee had his broken nose straightened Tuesday, and the horror stories proved true. The 20-minute process featured a sweat-inducing numbing agent, a metal rod inserted into his nostril, and pushing, shoving and cracking. . . . In addition to Fitzpatrick, the Sabres scratched left wings Taylor Pyatt, Andrew Peters and Jochen Hecht (knee). . . . John Ratzenberger, best known as Cliff Clavin on "Cheers," was a the game to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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