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Hand injury will keep Leopold sidelined

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold played 11 shifts in the third period Friday night against the Florida Panthers and even scored his 13th goal of the season. Incredibly, it appears he did all that with a serious hand injury.

Leopold did not play Saturday against the New Jersey Devils and General Manager Darcy Regier announced shortly before the opening faceoff that the veteran is done for at least the rest of the regular season. Leopold has a broken bone and will see a hand specialist Monday to determine the extent of the damage.

"It's not day to day. It will be weeks," Regier said in a brief meeting with reporters in the press box.

"I think every team suffers blows and we suffered one again," coach Lindy Ruff said after the 2-0 win. "We need somebody to step in and play well. There's areas of the game he's definitely going to be missed. That's where somebody has to step in and make the difference for us."

Leopold apparently suffered the injury with 7:42 left in the second period while chasing down Florida's Ryan Carter on a shorthanded breakaway. Leopold and Tim Connolly got crossed up at the Florida line and Carter stole the puck and broke down the ice.

Leopold, however, caught up to Carter just before he got to the net and the players crashed into Ryan Miller and the goal, dislodging it to the end boards.

Leopold immediately started shaking his left hand and took his glove off when he was on the bench, but did not leave the game. He was seen in the locker room after the game with tape on the hand.

Leopold, signed to a three-year, $9-million contract on July 1, has 13 goals and 22 assists in his first season as a Sabre. His 13 goals are the most by a Buffalo defenseman since Alexei Zhitnik scored 15 in 1997-98.

Mike Grier twice limped off with a right leg problem during the third period Saturday and Ruff said he's been dealing with some knee aggravation but should be fine.

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Leopold was replaced in the lineup by Steve Montador, who had missed the last three games with a lower-body injury. Jochen Hecht, out four games with an upper-body injury, also returned.

To get Hecht to the lineup, the Sabres scratched Mark Mancari and returned him to Portland but that was only a paper move. Mancari is still with the club while a decision is made to decide if the team wants to use the second of their four recalls on him (the first was used on Jhonas Enroth).

Hecht started the game between Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville and then shifted to the middle between Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford.

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The Devils have now been shut out for 173 minutes, 55 seconds, their longest streak since moving to New Jersey in 1982. New Jersey has just five goals in its last six games and has been blanked three times in that stretch.

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The Sabres finished 3-0-1 against the Devils, winning three games against New Jersey in a season for just the second time (the other was 2000-01). Brad Boyes' first-period assist gave him 10 points in 14 games since being acquired from St. Louis on Feb. 27. The Sabres had outshot opponents in seven straight regulation periods at home until the Devils had a 10-7 edge in the middle period. The crowd of 18,690 was Buffalo's 10th straight sellout and 20th in 38 home games.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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