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Paetsch is back in the picture on blue line

OTTAWA -- It's fitting that Nathan Paetsch skated around Scotiabank Place connected to a parachute Wednesday. The Buffalo Sabres know that, like the skydiver's harness, he provides a level of safety.

He'll also be dropping into the lineup for the Sabres' next game.

The Sabres lost defenseman Henrik Tallinder to a sprained ankle late in the second period of Wednesday's 6-3 loss to Ottawa. He will be re-evaluated today in Buffalo, but coach Lindy Ruff is already counting him out for Friday's home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So Paetsch, who was scratched for the sixth straight time Wednesday, will be back for his first game since Dec. 21. Paetsch has been preparing as if he were going into the lineup every night, and that includes skating with a parachute to force his legs to churn harder.

So even though an injury has struck again, the Sabres know Paetsch can help prevent a free fall.

"It's great for the team to stay healthy. It's so important to get the record we have," Paetsch said. "But I'm here if anybody needs me. I think they know that."

The broken forearm that sidelined Tallinder for nearly two months helped the 23-year-old get more playing time than expected early in his rookie year. He played 24 consecutive games.

"It's tougher when you get spotted in and out, but there I got a good base to play a lot of games," he said. "It was good for giving me confidence for playing at this level."

The confidence was accompanied by numbers. He had seven assists and a plus-5 rating. Entering Wednesday's games, he had the same number of assists as Ottawa's Wade Redden and Detroit's Chris Chelios, and Paetsch had more assists than half the defensemen playing regularly for Calgary, Carolina, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Montreal, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington.

"When he does his extra skating he goes at it as hard as anybody," Ruff said. "When preparation and opportunity come across and he gets his chance, he's ready."

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The Senators, worn ragged up the middle because of injuries to centers Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette, reloaded Wednesday by acquiring Mike Comrie from Phoenix for suspended prospect Alexei Kaigorodov.

"Very seldom are you going to lose your [top three] center-ice men," Ottawa General Manager John Muckler said. "We felt we needed a little more offense."

Comrie made it to Ottawa in time for the game and skated on the Senators' second line with wingers Chris Neil and Peter Schaefer. Comrie, who has seven goals this season, made a good first impression on the Ottawa faithful. He had two assists and three shots in 18:16 of ice time.

Kaigorodov started the season in Ottawa but refused a minor-league assignment and was suspended.

***

The Sabres had lackluster play in goal for the second straight morning. Ruff donned the pads in Tuesday's optional skate and failed to generate All-Star talk. On Wednesday, it was Martin Biron who didn't look too great.

That's because of where he was looking. Canada's 2-1 semifinal victory over the United States in the World Junior Tournament was being shown live on the scoreboard during the morning skate, and Biron kept gazing at the action rather than the pucks.

"Did you see me out there?" he said. "I didn't stop anything."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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