Ville Leino hopes to make his season debut soon. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Leino hopes to return next week; Leopold and Sekera also close to playing

BUFFALO – After practice ended this afternoon inside Cazenovia Ice Rink, Sabres winger Ville Leino and some teammates stayed out and went through a series of rough battles drills with assistant coach James Patrick.

A few weeks ago, as Leino’s injured right hip made little progress, the Finn’s season appeared in jeopardy. He skated alone briefly if he skated at all.

But Leino’s hip has responded well to new treatments recently. He’s practicing fully and bumping.

The 29-year-old could make his season debut as soon as next week, although Sunday’s tilt in Philadelphia against the Flyers, his old team, is out. Next week is a “strong possibility,” interim Sabres coach Ron Rolston said.

“It’s getting good,” said Leino, who went down Jan. 18, two days before the season opener. “But you might get a little sore. You might get a little tight. But the next day you’re right back at it, so it’s pretty good.”

Still, Leino likely needs surgery following the season.

“I think we have to get rid of that,” he said. “I already had my left hip done. It’s the same issue, but hopefully we’ll get through the season.”

Battling after practice certainly signifies progress.

“We’ve been doing that for the last four days,” Leino said. “It doesn’t get bad. It’s been pretty good. I feel pretty strong out there.”

In other injury news, defenseman Andrej Sekera, who left Thursday’s 3-2 shootout loss in New Jersey late, didn’t practice today and is out Sunday, Rolston said.

“I wouldn’t imagine he’ll be too long,” said Rolston, who called Sekera “day-to-day.”

Meanwhile, defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand) practiced fully again today and could return next week, Rolston said.

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