BUFFALO, N.Y. – Buffalo center Tim Connolly skated over the weekend and could return to practice today when the Sabres begin preparing for their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins.

Sabres Coach Lindy Ruff said Monday he’s “optimistic about (Connolly) practicing and possibly playing” when the playoff series begins Thursday.

Connolly is the Sabres’ second-leading scorer with 65 points, despite missing the last nine games because of a foot injury.

Ruff also didn’t rule out forward Jochen Hecht from practicing, though he hasn’t been skating since missing the last three games with an upper-body injury.


COYOTES: The proposed agreement between the city of Glendale, Ariz., and a group headed by Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf for purchase of the Phoenix franchise is facing severe criticism from a conservative watchdog group.

Carrie Ann Sitren, attorney at the Goldwater Institute, said Reinsdorf’s memorandum of understanding on a revised lease made public on Friday “raises serious legal questions.”

On the other hand, she said the memorandum with the other proposed buyer, Ice Edge Holdings, “looks much better.”

The Glendale City Council is scheduled to vote on both memorandums tonight. If both are approved, the NHL would decide who would buy the team, which was purchased by the league last year in bankruptcy court.


AVALANCHE: Colorado remained hopeful rookie Matt Duchene will be back on the ice for the playoff opener against San Jose despite a torso injury.

Duchene skated Monday with no setbacks. Colorado opens the series Wednesday.

The status of forward Peter Mueller remains uncertain. He’s been out with a head injury after a hit along the boards against San Jose on April 4.


LIGHTNING: Tampa Bay fired Coach Rick Tocchet and General Manager Brian Lawton after the team missed the playoffs for the third straight season. It’s club’s third coaching change in two years.


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