Nathan Gerbe could make his season debut Thursday. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Gerbe skating on line with Grigorenko, could return Thursday

BUFFALO – While Nathan Gerbe still must be cleared to play, it appears the feisty Sabres winger could make his season debut Thursday in Carolina after undergoing offseason spine surgery.

Gerbe skated on the wing this morning beside 18-year-old rookie Mikhail Grigorenko and Steve Ott, his first action on a regular line this year.

“We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said following practice inside the First Niagara Center.

Gerbe underwent a procedure called a Discectomy L5-SI for an L4 herniated disc in July. He won’t be tentative, however. He plans to play his regular hard-nosed style.

“I’m not shy. I want to get out there,” Gerbe said. “I’m not going to be afraid. I want to hit someone. I want to get some hits out of the way. That’s probably going to make me calm down.”

Meanwhile, winger Ville Leino (lower body) sat out today’s practice.

“It seemed like he wasn’t gaining any traction by trying to skate and seeing where he’s at,” Ruff said. “The thought now is maybe getting him a couple days off the ice and see if we can improve his situation that way.”

Leino had been skating with Grigorenko and Ott. Jochen Hecht, who centered John Scott and Patrick Kaleta today, subbed for Leino the first two games.

Now Grigorenko’s getting another linemate.

“He’s going to have to get used to that,” Ruff said.

Grigorenko doesn’t mind the changes.

“They’re great players,” the Russian said.

Ruff also said backup goalie Jhonas Enroth will start Thursday or the second-game of the home-and-home series Friday.

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