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Afinogenov says he's been ready to go

UNIONDALE -- Maxim Afinogenov doesn't see the point of sitting in the press box. He was there again Saturday night, dressed in his black suit rather than the Blue and Gold of the Buffalo Sabres.

He knows the trade deadline is Wednesday. He figures if he isn't going to play for the Sabres, he may as well play for someone else.

"I want to play, definitely," Afinogenov told The Buffalo News on Saturday. "I want to help the team, but if they're not using me, it's probably no point for me to be here.

"Anything can happen. We'll see. If they don't want to use me here, they're probably going to move me. I don't know what's going to happen right now."

Afinogenov missed his 24th straight game when the Sabres visited the New York Islanders. Most of those absences were due to a groin strain, and Afinogenov is still on the injured reserve list.

The right winger, though, said he's been ready to return since the middle of February.

"I was injured, but now I'm healthy," Afinogenov said after a hard skate in Nassau Coliseum. "It's like 10 days now. The doctors cleared me to play and stuff, but I'm not in the lineup. That's why it's frustrating for me, definitely."

The Sabres would have to make a roster move in order to activate Afinogenov. They are at the 23-man limit. They obviously feel he is not one of their top 12 forwards or else they would have put him back in the lineup.

"I don't have discussions with the coach about that," Afinogenov said.

The shifty winger is having his second straight subpar season. He has just two goals in 34 games and is a team-worst minus-14. Afinogenov, the longest tenured Sabre in his ninth season, had 10 goals, 18 assists and a minus-16 rating last year.

Afinogenov was on the trade block last offseason, but there was no market for the 29-year-old. It remains to be seen whether one will materialize in the next four days as NHL general managers begin their trade discussions in earnest.

"It is tough," Afinogenov said. "You want to be there, and you want to help. It's definitely frustrating."

***

Sabres prospect Tyler Ennis had a hat trick Friday night. Then he added another one -- in the same game.

Ennis scored six goals for Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League, pouring in every goal in the Tigers' 6-2 victory over Prince Albert. The scoring binge was one shy of the WHL record, held by five players.

"Every time I scored and came back to the bench it was just like, 'Wow,' " Ennis told reporters. "I couldn't believe it. They just kept going in."

The 19-year-old winger was the second of the Sabres' two first-round picks in the 2008 entry draft.

***

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff faced only a few questions after the morning skate and talked for less than 90 seconds. As he walked away, he told the New York media they had gone soft by not grilling him more.

Ruff is certainly in a better mood now than he was last year, when the Sabres were behind in the playoff race.

"Right now we're right in the thick of things," he said. "Last year, we were always battling to get there. We always battled and seemed to be two points out or four points out. We'd just barely get there and get pushed back. So we, for a good period of time now, have been in the picture."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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