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Niedermayer gets larger role with Roy out

The NHL schedule said the Buffalo Sabres had to move on Monday night without the gone-for-the-season Derek Roy. It wasn't easy.

"It's hard for all of us to deal with but especially for me as a friend and a linemate," Thomas Vanek, Roy's longtime winger, said before the game against the Calgary Flames. "I've played with him a long time now it seems like. It's tough. We feel bad for him. It seemed like a nothing play and now he's done. He was having a great year."

Roy, Buffalo's leading scorer with 35 points in 35 games, was knocked out with a torn quad tendon by a hit Thursday night from Florida's Dmitry Kulikov. He will have surgery this week.

"I heard right after the game it wasn't looking too good, but I was hoping to hear good news," Vanek said. "Instead, it was the worst news you can have."

Coach Lindy Ruff said the loss of Roy puts the onus on other players to fill the offensive void.

"We have players who will welcome additional ice time and bigger roles," said Ruff. "There's players I expect to get more out of and they'll have a chance to get more ice time in places like special teams, last minute of games that Derek had."

Rob Niedermayer opened the game in Roy's spot between Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis. Niedermayer, who has no goals in 26 games over a season dogged by knee surgery, had easily his best skating game of the season Thursday against Florida after Roy departed.

"I have to be able to get these guys the puck," Niedermayer said of Vanek and Ennis. "They're both creative players offensively. You lose a guy like Derek who has been so consistent, it's up to you be big and take the responsibility for everyone."

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Center Tim Connolly skated for the second straight day wearing a full face shield to protect his surgically repaired nose. Ruff said Connolly will practice again today in Edmonton and should play Saturday when Boston comes to HSBC Arena.

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Former Sabre Ales Kotalik played his 10th game for the Flames after returning from knee surgery and finally got his first goal. Kotalik suffered a double ligament tear in the left knee the last week of training camp and missed the first 27 games.

"It was tough to take because I felt really good in training camp and this was a complete setback," Kotalik said. "I was back to ground zero. You lose a third of your season and you already know you're never going to have the numbers you'd like to get."

Kotalik was traded by the Sabres to Edmonton in 2009 and signed as a free agent last year with the New York Rangers before getting traded to Calgary. He was a 20-goal scorer for the Sabres three times and had a career-high 62 points for the 2006 conference finalists but has yet to approach those totals elsewhere.

"I've had some tough times since I left, no question," he said. "I'm still working to establish myself in a new place. I have so much respect for the people in that organization. Lindy and Darcy [GM Darcy Regier] gave me a chance to show myself and become a player in this league. The coaches, the staff everyone there was so good to me. They are great people."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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