NASHVILLE -- Buffalo Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder should play for the first time in nearly two months when the team visits the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
His return to the ice can't come soon enough.
"I've been itchy the whole eight weeks, but now when you get closer to it you can feel and taste it," Tallinder said before Thursday night's game against the Nashville Predators in the Gaylord Entertainment Center. "I just want to play now. It's been too long."
On a seemingly innocuous hit Oct. 26, Tallinder's left forearm cracked in the same place it did in the playoffs. A metal plate was inserted to prevent another fracture.
The arm is strong enough, and Tallinder's condition hasn't been a concern in the club's decision to dress him again.
"He's in shape," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "He is so tired of skating right now. I think he would be able to outskate anybody on our team. He's that good a skater and he's in that great of shape. It's a little more about strength and the battling-type stuff."
Tallinder's teammates are excited to know his rehabilitation is nearly over.
"He's one of the top defenseman, especially with the new rules," Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere said. "That's a guy we're going to need. He's going to make our team a lot better, so we're excited to see him back on the ice."
The Sabres have missed the smooth-skating, long-reaching Tallinder more and more, particularly while killing penalties. Tallinder and partner Toni Lydman manned the top unit.
"We've been struggling a little bit there," Tallinder said. "I hope I can make an impact on it. That's my job here, to be a good penalty killer and do my thing back there."
Said Briere: "Just his presence is going to calm everybody on the ice on the penalty kill and also five-on-five."
Tallinder is coming back at a time when the Sabres might lose two other defensemen. Jaroslav Spacek said he was fine after being sucker-punched by Predators center Scott Nichol but appeared to lose consciousness when he hit the ice. Teppo Numminen left Thursday night's game late in the third period when a shot hit him on the inside of his knee.
The Internet campaign to get Rory Fitzpatrick voted into next month's All-Star Game continues to amaze.
Even though he's a write-in candidate, the pedestrian former Sabres defenseman ranked second among all Western Conference defensemen and was third overall behind only Joe Thornton and Scott Niedermayer in balloting at the time of the NHL's weekly update.
Fitzpatrick had collected 428,832 votes, putting him ahead of Norris Trophy winners Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger.
"I haven't voted, and I'm ashamed of myself now because I know Rory," Ruff said when asked if he had cast an on-line ballot. "It is what it is. I think you've got to enjoy it, and it seems like it's getting more and more speed."
Kalinin played Thursday despite a nagging groin injury that kept him out of Wednesday's practice.
"I think it's limited him in a sense of starting, stopping, explosive stuff," Ruff said. "Especially when he gets fatigued in the game, it's hurt him. But it's not bad enough he can't play."
The outside-the-box treatment Tim Connolly has been receiving to overcome his concussion apparently is working. The Sabres have been hesitant to give specifics on the slick center's development, but Ruff on Thursday said, "It hasn't gone backwards, so that's good."