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Sekera called up for NHL debut

MONTREAL -- Teppo Numminen has a broken big toe. That means Andrej Sekera got a big break of his own.

The Sabres on Saturday recalled Sekera from the Rochester Americans and sent him onto the ice to play against the Montreal Canadiens in the Bell Centre for his NHL debut. To make room on the roster, winger Daniel Paille was demoted.

"This is the biggest level, the National Hockey League," Sekera said outside the dressing room before the game. "I'm just going to keep moving my feet and pass the puck well. Hopefully, good things will happen."

Sekera became the 28th player to wear a Sabres jersey this season, the fifth in his NHL debut. He played left defense with partner Nathan Paetsch. Toni Lydman took Numminen's spot alongside Dmitri Kalinin.

An early third-round choice in the 2004 draft, Sekera was the last cut in training camp, which logically would make him the eighth defenseman. But when injuries wracked the Sabres last month, Mike Card and Michael Funk were called up first because Sekera was hobbled, too.

Sekera strained abdominal muscles at the end of camp, and once he recovered from that he strained both groin muscles, forcing him to miss 12 of Rochester's first 13 games.

The 20-year-old Slovak claimed he wasn't too concerned about missing opportunities to make it to the bigs.

"Injuries come and go," Sekera said. "There's nothing you can do about it. You just have to stay focused, work hard, get over it. You just have to wait and your time will come that you can show you belong."

Sekera, named the OHL's best defenseman last season, said he needed a few games to adjust to the speed of the AHL. But his game has developed to the point Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth recommended him for the assignment. Sekera had three assists and a plus-4 rating in the two games before his promotion.

"The speed, the power of guys, skill level is a little bit faster," Sekera said. "You have less time to react, so you have to be aware.

"But I'm pretty excited about it. Everybody's excited about playing in their first NHL game, but also I just want to keep my game simple and play as hard as I can."

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The pain in Numminen's toe apparently pulses like a Megadeth bassline.

"It has its own beat," Numminen said.

Buffalo's alternate captain insisted he had no idea how long he will be out with the fractured right big toe he suffered while blocking a point slapper in the first period of Thursday night's loss to the Florida Panthers. He predicted he would miss only a couple games.

"It's a broken toe," Numminen said. "If you break a bone, it's four to six weeks. So I don't know what that is. But with a toe you can see how it feels in the skate. I haven't talked to the doctors yet, but I'm sure it's not going to be that long."

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Saturday night probably was Martin Biron's turn to start, but Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said his goaltending plans went out the window on the first stop of the five-game road trip. Biron played 51 minutes in relief of Ryan Miller in the Dec. 2 bonfire against the Washington Capitals.

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The Sabres have not lost in regulation when Jason Pominville (11-0 with a shootout loss), Ales Kotalik (6-0), Jiri Novotny (6-0), Paul Gaustad (4-0), Brian Campbell (4-0) or Jaroslav Spacek (3-0 with an overtime loss) scores a goal.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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