John Scott (right) fights George Parros during the second period Sunday. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

T.J. Brennan replaces Andrej Sekera on Sabres’ banged-up blue line

BUFFALO – A bruised foot sidelined Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera for Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers. Rookie T.J. Brennan replaced him, making his second appearance this season.

Sekera blocked Alexei Emelin’s shot shortly into his first shift Saturday, went to the dressing room and returned for several shifts before leaving the Sabres’ 6-1 loss in Montreal again after the first period.

Ruff hopes it’s a short-term injury.

“He took a pretty hard shot,” Ruff said inside the First Niagara Center prior to the game. “It depends. It could be day-to-day. It could be a little bit more.”

Meanwhile, defenseman Robyn Regehr (lower body, four games) is progressing.

“Today we felt he was moving in the right direction,” Ruff said. “We think in a few days we’ll have him back on the ice.”

The Sabres began training camp with nine NHL defensemen before waiving Adam Pardy. Now, their depth has been whittled away. They’re down to just six healthy defenders.

“It’s tough having eight around,” Ruff said. “But you can see the number of injuries around the league. They’re starting to pile up. We’ve got a couple on the back end now. The next move would be bringing somebody up. So it’s important you have that depth.”

Brennan skated 15:44, mostly with the struggling Tyler Myers.

In other news, winger Ville Leino (hip) tried to skate again Sunday.

“Not much changed,” Ruff said.

The Sabres made one lineup change up front, inserting Nathan Gerbe and sitting Matt Ellis.

The Sabres flexed more muscle Sunday, scrapping twice.

Cody McCormick, just back from a finger injury, fought Tyson Strachan in an entertaining first-period bout.

In the second period, new Sabres fan-favorite John Scott battled George Parros in an epic heavyweight battle. Both tough guys landed some blows.

Faceoffs bit the Sabres again 8:36 into the game. Not only did they begin Sunday 30th overall, their 42.5 percentage ranked 3.8 behind 29th-ranked Columbus.

Shawn Matthias’ quick one-timer beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller after Jerred Smithson beat Tyler Ennis cleanly in the left circle.

Twenty years ago Sunday, the Sabres made one of the biggest trades in franchise history, sending future 50-goal man Dave Andreychuk, goalie Daren Puppa and a first-round pick to Toronto for future Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr and a fifth-round pick.

Florida winger Alexei Kovalev, who turns 40 years old on Feb. 24, is back in North America after a one-year KHL stint. The Russian has two goals and four points in eight games. He last played in the NHL in 2010-11 with Ottawa and Pittsburgh. Sunday was Kovalev’s 1,310 NHL game.

Sabres center Cody Hodgson had a goal and three points in his 100th NHL game.

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