Sabres D Ruhwedel reflects on marathon bombings

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, Sabres rookie

defenseman Chad Ruhwedel has one more reason to be thankful for

making the jump to the NHL.

Had Ruhwedel not elected to end his college career at UMass

Lowell to sign with Buffalo last weekend, he would have likely

spent Monday with his friends watching the marathon not far from

the finish line where two bombs exploded.

”It’s kind of hit me,” Ruhwedel said, after practice Tuesday.

”It’s hard to think about sometimes: `I could’ve been there.’

Fortunately, I wasn’t. And I’m really praying for everyone who

was.”

Ruhwedel said his friends were unhurt after being not far from

where three people were killed and more than 170 wounded.

And he’ll get an up-close reminder of what happened later

Tuesday, after the Sabres travelled to Boston, where they’ll play

the Bruins the following day.

The game will be the first professional sporting event to take

place in Boston since the bombings.

The Bruins’ home game against the Senators on Monday night was

postponed to April. 28. The NBA canceled the Celtics’ home game

Tuesday against Indiana. And the Red Sox have left town to open a

three-game series at Cleveland.

Ruhwedel’s thoughts of making a homecoming have suddenly become

secondary.

”Oh, that’s not important to me. I just want to make sure

everybody’s OK down there,” said the 22-year-old, who’s played two

games with the Sabres. ”My homecoming is nothing compared to

that.”

Also placed on the backburner for now, was talk of the Sabres

continuing their late-season playoff push. Players and team

officials were instead expressing sorrow, sympathy and dismay in

the wake of the tragic events.

”Life’s way more important than hockey,” forward Nathan Gerbe

said. ”I think everyone in the world feels their pain. It’s

heartbreaking.”

And Gerbe, who played at Boston College, acknowledged he’s ”a

little nervous” about traveling to Boston.

”You’re worried because they don’t know exactly why and how and

who,” Gerbe said. ”I don’t know if I’m going to go out walking in

the city or not. I’ll probably just stay in the hotel and

chill.”

General manager Darcy Regier had no concerns, and expects a

heightened security presence in the city and at the arena.

”Obviously, it affects all of us, and it’s tragic and horrific.

But no, I don’t have reservations. You just move forward,” Regier

said. ”It’s going to be pretty difficult not to think about what

happened, obviously. But ultimately, we’re there to play a hockey

game and focus on winning a game.”

The Sabres (18-19-6) are coming off two wins that have kept them

in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. With five games left,

Buffalo opened Tuesday in 10th place, four points behind the New

York Rangers, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Bruins (26-11-4) also have plenty to play for, sitting a

point behind Northeast Division-leading Montreal.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who is from Buffalo, expressed his

sympathies to victims of the bombings in a statement released on

the team’s website.

”I have no doubt that the amazing people in Boston will

continue to display great strength and resiliency,” Jacobs said.

”We will be there to offer our support in any way that we can in

the wake of this tragedy.”

Sabres forward Steve Ott expects there to be a somber mood

inside the arena in Boston.

”Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit overwhelming to start

the game with heavy hearts,” Ott said. ”But we’re going to go out

there and try to play our hardest for the people, and at least try

to put some smiles on the faces for at least a couple of hours,

anyhow.”