Gerbe practices; ready to return?

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Nathan Gerbe appears on the verge of returning to the Sabres’ lineup after undergoing offseason spine surgery.

Per the Buffalo News, the diminutive forward was skating on a line with Mikhail Grigorenko and Steve Ott at this morning’s practice.

Prior to surgery, Gerbe, 25, had been dealing with neck and back issues after being hit from behind (video) by Philadelphia’s Marc-Andre Bourdon on Dec. 7, 2011.

Buffalo’s next game is Thursday at Carolina.

Update (12:30 p.m. ET):

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff says Gerbe needs to be cleared by doctors before he can play on Thursday.