OTTAWA -- Lots of news from the Sabres camp Wednesday around Teppo Numminen and Jocelyn Thibault -- two guys who haven't seen the ice much this season outside of practice.
The latest on Numminen is that he's been told he has to wait six months after his heart surgery -- or the middle of March -- before Sabres doctors clear him for full contact. And while it still smells like the Sabres are trying to shirk their way out of paying any of his $2.6 million salary, I reached Numminen at his home today and he said, "doctors talk to doctors" when asked what has changed in the last week since he gave a glowing post-practice report after a return from the Cleveland Clinic. The heart is fine but no one, he says, is confident the scar in his chest cavity is sufficiently healed for him to play.
We're always going to be suspicious of the Sabres in cases like these, especially with our long memories of Pat LaFontaine. Patty was not cleared by the Sabres but was cleared by the Rangers and played effectively until his final concussion. Maybe another team's doctors might clear Teppo but here' s an important point: He's far from being ready to play. Would he help the Sabres right now? Emotionally, for sure. Physically, probably not.
As for Thibault, putting him in net on the road in Ottawa for Thursday night's game when he hasn't started since Dec. 6 sure seems like a curious move by Lindy Ruff. I'm with Sully on this one. But when you're winless in seven games, it's probably time to try something new to shake things up. The Sabres did get a burst of energy when Thibault came in for Ryan Miller last Friday, wiping out a 3-0 deficit until Thibault was burned by Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson in the final five minutes.
Ruff probably figured Thursday was a better night for Thibault then either game against New Jersey where goals are impossible to come by against Martin Brodeur. Ray Emery or Martin Gerber aren't nearly as intimidating. And it's probably better not to start Thibault at home at this point. The way this team is going, especially on offense, it looks like Ruff is just throwing a dart on the wall and seeing if it sticks.
Pretty hard to believe things have gotten to this point.