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Leopold exam postponed

The Buffalo Sabres did not get an update on Jordan Leopold's condition Monday because the injured defenseman has come down with the flu and his appointment with a hand specialist had to be postponed.

Leopold suffered a broken bone in his hand during Friday's win over the Florida Panthers and has been ruled out of the rest of the regular season. His status for the playoffs is up in the air based on whether or not he will need surgery on the hand.

Leopold had 13 goals and 35 points this year for the Sabres and was leading the team in ice time at 23 minutes, 15 second per game because he was playing on both special-teams units.

"He's an all-around great defenseman and somebody we've relied on in a lot of situations," said Steve Montador, who has spent much of the season as Leopold's defense parter. "As we've gone through injuries before, it just gives somebody an opportunity to fill in the spots where he was so good at. It can be a good thing for guys to step up."

"It's unfortunate but it's kind of the way hockey goes sometimes," said goaltender Ryan Miller. "You saw with the [Los Angeles] Kings the last few days, where [Justin] Williams and [Anze] Kopitar go down with injuries. Two huge offensive guys. We lose Jordan, who's been solid on the back end but also throwing up some points. We're just going to have to adjust a little bit and see who can step up in that role. I think we have a lot of guys who are capable of it."

Coach Lindy Ruff said Leopold's minutes will be spread out to players like Chris Butler and Shaone Morrisonn, and Butler will likely get more time on the power play in Leopold's absence.

Marc-Andre Gragnani joined the Sabres Monday from Portland, where he has 12 goals and 48 assists in 63 games. His assist total and his 60 points are both franchise records for a defenseman in a season.

Gragnani, who can also play wing, could stay in place of Leopold to give the Sabres an extra defenseman. In addition, the Sabres are watching Tyler Myers closely because he is dealing with a rash from flu medication he has been taking. Myers left practice early Monday. "We've looked at our defense and it's easier to have an extra defenseman here," Ruff said. "Marc has played forward and we've talked about that short-term and we'll make a final decision. Having an extra forward makes it tough."

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Nathan Gerbe missed practice due to a family matter and Mike Grier sat out because of knee soreness. Mark Mancari, who was returned to Portland on paper Saturday but never left, is back on the Buffalo roster on emergency recall if Grier can't go tonight in Toronto.

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The Sabres insist there will be no letdown even though they've come back from 10 points out of the playoff race to a five-point lead with just seven games left. The party line is the intensity level will stay the same.

"It damn well better be," said Montador. "And I say it just like that because the second you let up in the next game where the other teams are winning and we don't, we're kind of back at square one in a sense. I don't think that will be the case. We've been in a dogfight for quite a while here."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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