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Although they have hardly missed a beat without co-captain Chris Drury, the Buffalo Sabres will be glad to get one of their best players back in the lineup.
After missing four games due to a concussion, Drury is expected to play Wednesday night when the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres host the Colorado Avalanche.
Drury absorbed a blindside hit from Ottawa's Chris Neil on Feb. 22 that sparked a huge brawl between the Northeast Division rivals. He needed 20 stitches to close a gash near his right eye, which was bruised and deeply reddened.
The center, whose 33 goals trail only Thomas Vanek's 34 for the team lead, said he was knocked out by the hit and doesn't remember it, but never experienced a headache of any kind afterward.
"My eye hurt, but other than that there weren't any other symptoms," said Drury, who scored a goal in three straight games before being sidelined. "Overall I guess I got pretty lucky."
Drury skated at practice Tuesday on a line with rookie Michael Ryan and newly acquired Dainius Zubrus, a natural center who will shift to wing.
Getting their co-captain back is a welcome development for the Sabres, who are also missing injured forwards Maxim Afinogenov, Paul Gaustad and Ales Kotalik and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek due to injuries.
Buffalo (44-16-5) lost its first game without Drury in the back end of a home-and-home set with Ottawa, but has since scored 17 goals during a three-game win streak.
Toni Lydman and rookie Drew Stafford scored second-period goals and Ryan Miller made 26 saves Saturday to lead the Sabres to a 3-1 victory at Toronto.
Buffalo, one point behind Nashville for the league's overall points lead, is 9-1-1 in its past 11 games.
Right wing Jason Pominville has helped pick up the slack in Drury's absence, collecting three goals and seven assists during a seven-game point streak.
Colorado (33-29-5) won its season-high fourth straight game Tuesday, 2-0 over Boston behind Peter Budaj's third shutout of the season. Brett Clark broke a scoreless tie early in the third period and Milan Hejduk added an empty-net tally for the Avalanche, who improved to 3-0 on a five-game road trip.
Despite their recent success, the Avalanche will have a difficult time reaching the playoffs. They are eight points behind the final spot with 15 games remaining.
"We've got to make a great run," Avs coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're playing the teams we have to catch, so we control our own destiny. But we still have to win almost every game."
Paul Stastny assisted on Clark's goal to extend his point streak to 16 games, matching his father Peter's franchise rookie record. Peter Stastny's streak came in the 1980-81 season, when the Avs were the Quebec Nordiques.
"Stastny has done everything right for us," Colorado captain Joe Sakic said. "He plays like a seasoned veteran. He's got that hockey sense you can't teach."
With a point in this game, the younger Stastny, who has eight goals and 15 assists during his run, will tie Teemu Selanne's NHL record 17-game point streak as a rookie, which he set in 1992-93 with the Winnipeg Jets.
The Sabres have won three straight meetings with the Avalanche, and six of the last eight games in the series.