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Torres says he's ready to return to lineup

Veteran forward Raffi Torres participated in a full workout with the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday and announced he was available tonight against the Florida Panthers. That doesn't mean he'll crack the lineup.

Torres has missed the past six games with a wrist injury. The left winger hinted after a light 30-minute practice in HSBC Arena that he hasn't fully recovered but felt strong enough to play. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff suggested he might wait before inserting Torres back into the lineup.

"I think I'm ready to go," Torres said. "It's up to the coaches to decide if they're going to put me in or not, but I'm feeling good. It's been a good eight or nine days here of skating to get my legs back and get healthy. It's good."

The Sabres have three games in four nights, so Ruff could keep Torres on the sidelines until later in the week. The practice Tuesday was his first full workout since the injury.

"I'm OK with him, but it was his first real practice," Ruff said. "Part of [Tuesday] was evaluating. We'll use [today] to evaluate whether he's in game condition and ready to go."

Torres had 19 goals and 31 points in 60 games with Columbus but has not scored and had just two assists in seven games after the Sabres acquired him at the trade deadline.

Buffalo has won five games in his absence and six of seven overall. The Sabres have very little pressure on them down the stretch with the playoffs locked up and the Northeast Division lead very much in command.

"It's almost like we don't need any help right now, but it would be nice to get back in the lineup," Torres said. "Just get back to working hard and being a positive [influence]."

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Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta was frustrated but otherwise fine after undergoing surgery Monday night on his right thumb, which was injured last Friday in a first-period fight against Ottawa rookie Zack Smith.

Kaleta is expected to miss at least two weeks but hopes to be skating in the next few days to maintain his conditioning. He did not rule out being ready for the playoffs, which are expected to begin in two weeks. He could be sidelined for six weeks if his thumb doesn't properly heal or he has trouble regaining enough strength to be effective.

"Hopefully, I can make a quick recovery," Kaleta said. "One of the only positives I have right now is that it's only your thumb. You don't need it, I guess. You can cut it off and your legs still work. In all seriousness, I'm going to go out and bag myself on skating and be prepared in case there's a chance for an early recovery."

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Florida was eight points behind in the race for the final playoff spot with seven games remaining, making it a virtual lock to miss the playoffs for the ninth straight season and tie the NHL record.

The Panthers had the worst power play in the NHL going into Wednesday's games, converting 14.8 percent of their chances this season and just 10.7 percent on the road. The Sabres were third this year in penalty killing at 85.8 percent, and led the league at home at 90.2 percent.

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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