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Connolly finally goes to tape

Tim Connolly is still affected by the concussion he suffered May 8, and it was only in the past week that he finally decided to watch the crunching hit that stopped his season.

The center ended his silence Saturday as the Buffalo Sabres closed their dressing room until September. He said he's feeling pretty good, but he was talking more staggered than usual in an HSBC Arena hallway.

The 25-year-old admitted he suffered the second major concussion of his career when Ottawa's Peter Schaefer found him cutting toward center ice early in the second round of the playoffs. Connolly's first concussion, in October 2003, forced him to miss an entire season.

"They told me it's not related at all," Connolly said. "I've only had one concussion before this, and it's been three years since that, so it's completely unrelated. It's disappointing, but you've got to stay positive through it all, just push on and thank everybody for their support. It's been great. Everybody's been great this year to me."

Connolly watched the hit because he is getting massage therapy for his sore neck and wanted to see which way the neck snapped when the blow was delivered. He declined to say if he thought the hit was illegal, but it became clear he does.

"It was a situation where I was coming up the ice full speed, and I saw Ales Kotalik on my right side," he said. "Just as I had gotten around him, right out from behind him at the last second I saw Schaefer. I kind of tried to get out of the way, but there was nowhere to go. I was going full speed, he was coming at an angle, there was just nowhere to go.

"I maybe fell down a little bit, but the contact that hit me was his elbow hitting my head at full speed. I watched it in slow motion, it was his elbow hitting my head."

The brief interview concluded before Connolly could be asked if he'd be back to play next season.

"There was a slight chance I'd be able to play if we made it to the next round, but unfortunately that didn't happen," Connolly said. "I've got all summer to rest.

"I've tried exercising a few times. Obviously, I would have played if I was able to, but I was unable to. It's pretty disappointing, but the guys played great."

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Defenseman Henrik Tallinder wore a cast and sling on his left arm and a frown on his face as he also met the media for the first time since he was injured late in Game Three of the Eastern Conference finals.

Tallinder missed the final four games against Carolina when he suffered a broken forearm on a hit by Mark Recchi.

"I had the puck in the corner, and I knew I was going to get hit," Tallinder recalled. "It's one of those unfortunate hits that you get. I got caught with my hand on the boards, and he hit my forearm instead of my shoulder. It's just bad luck. If he hits my shoulders, I would be fine.
"It's frustrating. I was really angry after the game. It's even more frustrating when you watch other games. You see guys fall down and [they're] OK."
Tallinder said he knew almost instantly the injury was serious. He said he expects to be ready for training camp, but doctors are monitoring him closely to make sure no surgery is necessary on his arm.
"Hopefully, it will heal by itself," he said. "That's how it looks right now. The bones are where they're supposed to be."

***

Defenseman Teppo Numminen, one of four unrestricted free agents, wants to sign another deal with the Sabres, but he has a more urgent matter first. He will go to the Cleveland Clinic in the next week to undergo heart surgery. It should prevent the rapid heartbeat that sidelined him for 2 1/2 games early in the postseason.

"I guess if you deal with your heart it's never simple, and it's always scary," Numminen said. "I had that surgery done two years ago in Dallas after the season. Everything went well. Hopefully, it's going to be the same way, and it's going to work out for me and it's not going to affect my career or my plans."

Numminen, who pondered retirement before signing a one-year deal with Buffalo, said coming back was the right move. It may be again.

"It's a month away, the free agency, but I enjoyed myself here," he said, "so hopefully I'll be back."

***

Forward Mike Grier said if contract talks go well, the Sabres would be at the top of the list for the unrestricted free agent.

""For me, it's all about winning and going to a situation where I feel I can have the best chance to win," Grier said. "The way things look here, I think it's definitely an option to come back here."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com and mharrington@buffnews.com

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