Nathan Gerbe had no desire to sit idly by this month while trying to recover from a concussion. He couldn't do much physically, but the Sabres' forward had an eager mind. He filled his time learning all he could about his ailment.
"I'm the kind of person who researches, who listens to everyone who's had a concussion," Gerbe said Wednesday. "I sit and listen to guys' interviews -- it doesn't matter if it's Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, any guy who has had concussions -- I listen and try to learn."
He feels he did. Gerbe missed his ninth straight game as Buffalo lost to New Jersey, 3-1, but he again skated with his teammates in the morning. He's improving.
"I had a better understanding with this one," said Gerbe, who also suffered a concussion in December 2008. "I had one three years ago, and I learned from that. Things I did then, I didn't do now. Just little things differently to help."
One of Gerbe's biggest changes was doing anything he could to stay positive. Concussions are among the most frustrating injuries because there is no timeline for recovery. A broken bone will heal in a set number of weeks. A battered brain is much less predictable.
"The hardest part of concussions in general, and I think everyone who's had one can assess it the same way, is mentally staying upbeat, staying positive, trying to overcome everything," Gerbe said in Prudential Center. "I think that's the toughest part for everyone who's gone through concussions. It's keeping a good attitude, keeping positive, staying upbeat every morning you wake up. That's what's going to help you get through it."
Concussions continue to be a much-discussed topic throughout the NHL. Nashville's Shea Weber, Los Angeles' Simon Gagne and Toronto's John-Michael Liles were diagnosed this week, adding to a long list this season that features Pittsburgh's Crosby, Philadelphia's Giroux and Chris Pronger, the New York Rangers' Marc Staal and the Sabres' Ryan Miller.
"It's a tough issue," said Buffalo's Jochen Hecht, who suffered a concussion during training camp. "I think the most important aspect of it is the players themselves show some respect to their fellow players and don't target the head, don't try to drill somebody headfirst into the boards."
That is how Gerbe got hurt. The Flyers' Marc-Andre Bourdon boarded him, with Gerbe's helmet bouncing off the glass on Dec. 7.
The 5-foot-5 Gerbe seems susceptible to concussions because of his size and style of play. The fearless forward enjoys physical games and likes hitting.
"You always worry, but it's one of those things where you've got to mentally overcome it, be positive and upbeat, and know there's good things to come," said Gerbe, who doesn't have a target for his return to game action. "It feels good to get back on the ice the last couple days and skate with the team. It's a change. I haven't really done too much besides bike rides, so it's good to get back."
The Sabres, in a rarity, used the same lineup in consecutive games. No one got hurt during Monday's 4-2 victory over Washington, allowing coach Lindy Ruff to dress the same 12 forwards and six defensemen. Marc-Andre Gragnani was the healthy scratch on the blue line, while Tyler Ennis (ankle) and Tyler Myers (wrist) skated in the morning but aren't ready to return.
The Sabres will not get to do it for three straight games. Defenseman Andrej Sekera left suffered an upper body injury that will keep him out for weeks, coach Lindy Ruff said. Former Sabre Eric Boulton boarded Sekera during the second period.
"He's going to be out for a while," Ruff said. "He's got a serious enough injury on a hit from behind again that he's going to miss weeks."
New Jersey was without defenseman Henrik Tallinder for the sixth straight game. The former Sabres blue-liner is out because of back spasms.
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur started against the Sabres for the second time this season. He won, 5-3, in the first meeting Nov. 16. The future Hall of Famer entered the night with subpar numbers, sporting just a 9-9 record with a 3.06 goals-against average and .884 save percentage.
Still, Ruff respects the abilities of the goalie, who turns 40 in May.
"Last game he probably robbed us three times, point blank, with glove saves," Ruff said. "We had some great opportunities, but it still seems like he can make the key saves at key times."