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Sabres Notebook

Now back at practice, Victor Olofsson has to stay patient before he returns to Sabres' lineup

Buffalo Sabres fans don't like hearing the word, but it's going to come into play yet again.

When it comes to Victor Olofsson, patience is the buzz.

The sharpshooting rookie winger returned to practice Saturday, more than a month after suffering what's believed to be a high ankle sprain in the Jan. 2 win over Edmonton. But just because the Sabres have four home games in an eight-day stretch, starting with Sunday's matinee against Anaheim, don't expect Olofsson's 16 goals to be rushed back into the lineup.

"You know that we're nearing a re-entry but I would definitely say it will be a week or more still," coach Ralph Krueger cautioned in KeyBank Center. "This is the first step of reintegrating him into the game, but we're really pleased to see him back out there.

"Even today's practice is a partial pregame skate, partial rehabilitation and regeneration day. For Victor, it's just getting his mindspace back into what he needs to do."

Olofsson went through all drills and had some contact but did not take line rushes. After Sunday's visit by the Ducks, the Sabres host rematches against Detroit on Tuesday and Columbus on Thursday. Based on what Krueger said, it would appear the earliest Olofsson might play is the Feb. 16 game against Toronto.

And while even that date might be optimistic, there's no question Saturday's return to the ice with the team was a huge step forward.

"It's great to be back with the guys," said Olofsson, 24. "I'm not quite there yet but it was nice to kind of get out there, get the feel of the game again and it's good to have a little bit, but not much contact. A few guys around you, so you have to be aware."

At the time of the injury, Olofsson led NHL rookies with 16 goals and 35 points. He entered Saturday still second in goals to Chicago's Dominik Kubalik (21) and third in points behind Vancouver's Cale Makar and Colorado's Quinn Hughes (40 each). Olofsson is third overall on the Sabres' roster in both goals and points (35), behind only Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart in both categories.

The injury was a freaky one to a player who earned NHL Rookie of the Month in both October and December. There was nobody around him as Olofsson passed to Reinhart for a goal before crumpling in the corner after his skate caught a rut in the ice.

"It was unfortunate, no one around me, just kind of got stuck with my left skate and fell," he said. "It happens. I’ve been trying to stay positive. I’ve been working very hard to come back here. ... look at it as an opportunity to get stronger and come back with just some fresh start, fresh mind."

Olofsson has missed 13 games, watching many from the press box or on TV at road games. The Sabres are 6-6-1 in his absence

"It's a time where he's been able to do some reflection and some more mental growth," Krueger said. "I always find the injury situation as opportunities for players if they use them properly. He's been able to observe the game from the outside and we've been interacting with him quite a bit.

"I think it's going to take him to even another level of maturity, having a bit of pause in a season which was truly Rookie of the Year in NHL caliber. We're confident he'll be able to get back to that level but with an even higher feeling of confidence."

With the Sabres having limited practice time planned over the next 10 days, Olofsson said he would take a morning skate on gamedays -- even if the team is passing on one -- to get his work in.

"I've got to stay positive and I've got to stay calm and not really rush into it either," he said. "I think that’s when you can have those setbacks as well. Obviously, you get really eager to get back into it when you’re watching it."

Skinner's small time

Krueger said not to read into Jeff Skinner's low ice time total of 10 minutes, 20 seconds in Friday's win at New York -- even though it was Skinner's lowest for a game he wasn't injured since he played 9:46 for Carolina at Boston in 3-0 win on Nov. 26, 2010.

Skinner averaged 38-second shifts Friday, which Kreuger wanted on a back-to-back. Still, Skinner has gone without a goal in 17 games -- a span dating to Dec. 2 that encircles his 10-game absence to a shoulder injury. Skinner had two shots on goal and five attempts in the game.

"What we need Jeff to be doing is getting scoring chances," Krueger said. "We're working hard together with him to get him into those spaces and he's working hard to find those spaces. He's a streaky scorer. We know that. His career has been streaky and the injury took him out of the space that was really a good space. He's on his way back into that space. I think if Jeff can get one, he'll get many."

Quick trip to Rochester

The Sabres sent center Rasmus Asplund and defenseman Lawrence Pilut to Rochester on Saturday so they could play in the Amerks' key game at Toronto but that could be a very temporary move. Both were scratches Friday night in New York and could be immediately brought back up.

"It's a good game in Toronto," Krueger said. "That's an opportunity to keep their feet moving, keep active. They'll be playing some big minutes and we'll reevaluate. It's just about getting them a game."

Pilut was a healthy scratch Friday while Asplund has been a scratch the last two games.

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