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Numminen decides to play with some pain

Missing two games with a broken toe was more than enough for Teppo Numminen.

The defenseman was back in the lineup Thursday when the Buffalo Sabres hosted the Florida Panthers. Numminen broke his toe blocking a shot against the Panthers last week, and he returned for the rematch after being absent against Montreal and New Jersey.

"There's pain, for sure, but you just have to play around it," Numminen said in HSBC Arena. "You know it's there. There's nothing you can do about it. It's just going to take time to get rid of it."

Numminen tested the injury in Wednesday's practice and again Thursday at the pregame skate.

"I felt good [Wednesday] and the toe didn't get sore," he said. "I felt good this morning, so everything's ready to go and it feels real strong."

Rookie blue-liner Andrej Sekera, called up from Rochester to replace Numminen, was sent back to the Amerks.

Numminen was joined in the starting lineup by co-captain Chris Drury. He missed Tuesday's game against New Jersey with the flu. The illness undoubtedly sapped some energy from Drury, but coach Lindy Ruff had no plans to limit Drury's minutes or keep a close watch on him.

"He's not the type of guy that wants to be asked how he's doing or how's he feeling. He just wants to play and 'leave me alone,' " Ruff said. "He's not a guy that wants any excuse."

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This edition of the Sabres, which played its 31st game Thursday, set two more franchise records with Tuesday's 3-2 victory over the Devils. The Sabres had 23 victories and 48 points through 30 games, breaking the marks of 21 wins and 46 points set in 1974-75. That Stanley Cup finalist did not have the benefit of shootouts.

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The Sabres' 14th home game of the season was their 14th sellout. The team has filled the building in 15 straight regular-season games counting last year's season finale.

It's a good run for an organization that had a sea of empty blue seats during its bankruptcy, but it's more than four full seasons away from the team record. The Sabres sold out Memorial Auditorium 359 straight times from Oct. 15, 1972, through Nov. 12, 1980. HSBC Arena seats 18,690, while the Aud's capacity ranged from 15,668 to 16,433.

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The Sabres received another visit from the man whose words last year inspired a glass plaque for the dressing room. Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who sang "God Bless America" at the start of the game, spoke to the team during the morning skate and posed for a group picture.

"This team is giving the finest," he told the arena crowd. "They are a great team."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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