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Northeast: Sabres need to adjust without Vanek

Wednesday, 10.14.2009 / 12:19 PM / Division Notebooks

By James Murphy - NHL.com Correspondent

One of the reasons the Buffalo Sabres are off to such a strong start -- they're one of only two teams in the League without a regulation loss -- is Thomas Vanek, who leads the team with 3 goals, including a pair in Tuesday's 6-2 defeat of the Detroit Red Wings.

Now the Sabres will have to see if they can continue that hot start minus Vanek. The two-time 40-goal scorer was lost during the second period of Tuesday's game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. When asked how long Vanek would be out, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff replied, "Weeks."

There was a bit of good news to emerge later Wednesday, however, as Ruff adjusted his original diagnosis from weeks to days.

"They thought he would feel a lot worse today, but he's actually feeling a lot better," Ruff said following practice Wednesday. "He's doing remarkably well, which is good. I wouldn't even rule him out maybe for a game on the weekend as well as he's doing today. It's a stretch, but it's something I won't rule out now."

Vanek slid hard into the end boards after scoring his second goal, but Ruff said the injury happened before that, and TV footage of Vanek on the bench before the goal showed him grimacing while moving his neck and shoulder area.

"It was before the goal, when I collided with (Brad) May," Vanek told The Buffalo News. "I went to hit him, and it happened there. I just finished the shift and felt it after. I knew right away and just tried to tough it out. After the shift, I just got it checked out."

When Vanek left the dressing room, his arm was not in a sling, and the Buffalo News reported that Vanek might have had X-rays taken on his ribs.

Vanek had been skating on the Sabres' top line, with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. On Wednesday, Adam Mair skated with them, but Mair is on injured reserve due to offseason hip surgery. But whether Mair, Vanek or someone else is on the roster, Ruff said this kind of roster and line juggling is just part of the game.

"It's tough, but we've got extra players and every team is going to have to deal with injuries," Ruff said. "If you look what Detroit's dealing with, they've got to deal with (Johan) Franzen out of the lineup. Every team is going to miss key players along the way and I think we have enough depth.”

Bruins must fight hype -- The Bruins, picked by many to contend for the Stanley Cup, went 2-3-0 on a season-opening five-game homestand. Players are starting to acknowledge that maybe they read the predictions and press clippings and let the hype get to them. The Bruins know they have a good team and now it's about execution.

"We're not playing well on a consistent basis," coach Claude Julien told the media after a 4-3 loss to Colorado on Monday. "There are times during the game when you see the team working hard and creating chances, and you see the old team of before. All of a sudden, you shoot yourself in the foot with some bad penalties or bad decisions. Somewhere down the road, you've got to get things straightened out in your head and be sharp and alert for 60 minutes. That's what we're going through right now. That's what's making it tough on us."

The Bruins will hit the road for the first time with a game at Dallas on Friday and Phoenix on Saturday.

Lessons into action -- Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has learned a lot from his fellow Team Canada Olympic coaches and now is implementing those lessons into his systems in Buffalo and at times against these coaching partners and counterparts. John Vogl has more in this One of the reasons the Buffalo Sabres are off to such a strong start -- they're one of only two teams in the League without a regulation loss -- is Thomas Vanek, who leads the team with 3 goals, including a pair in Tuesday's 6-2 defeat of the Detroit Red Wings.

Now the Sabres will have to see if they can continue that hot start minus Vanek. The two-time 40-goal scorer was lost during the second period of Tuesday's game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. When asked how long Vanek would be out, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff replied, "Weeks."

Vanek had been skating on the Sabres' top line, with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. The injury likely will force Ruff into some major line shuffling. The coach, though, said issues like this are just part of the game.

"It was before the goal, when I collided with (Brad) May. I went to hit him, and it happened there. I just finished the shift and felt it after. I knew right away and just tried to tough it out. After the shift, I just got it checked out."
-- Thomas Vanek

"It's tough, but we've got extra players and every team is going to have to deal with injuries," Ruff said. "If you look what Detroit's dealing with, they've got to deal with (Johan) Franzen out of the lineup. Every team is going to miss key players along the way and I think we have enough depth.”

Laraque steps forward -- Montreal Canadiens enforcer Georges Laraque has a soft spot for dogs and animals. Since declaring himself a vegan and joining People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Laraque who at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds is viewed as the big dog among NHL enforcers, has become the newest face of Canada's animal-welfare movement.

"At the end of the day when I retire, I don't want to be remembered by how many people I've beaten up," Laraque told the Montreal Gazette "I want to be remembered for the impact I have had in the community."

For more on Laraque's community work click here.

Defenseman Shawn Belle was called up from AHL Hamilton to fill in on the blue line in the wake of injuries to Andrei Markov and Ryan O'Byrne, and it's expected he'll play in Thursday's home opener against Colorado. The team also signed Marc-Andre Bergeron, who's expected to be available for Saturday's game against Ottawa.

Fisher gets a new line -- Senators center Mike Fisher has some new linemates this season and he likes the potential of what he, Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev can do.

"I'm excited," Fisher told the Ottawa Citizen about his new line. "I think we can really dominate -- be patient with pucks and cycle. I'm just going to try to open up space for them, use my speed and get them the puck."

Fisher is showing early signs of having a comeback season, as headed into Thursday's game with Tampa Bay he was tied with Alfredsson for the team lead with 4 points. Here's more on Fisher's possible resurgence.

Senators defenseman Matt Carkner finally is realizing his dream and now has his first goal under his belt at age 28. Carkner scored his first goal in a 3-2 win against the Islanders on Oct. 8.

"It was kind of surreal," Carkner told the club's Web site. "I've always dreamed of playing in the NHL and I think yesterday, I was thinking about how it would (feel) to score a goal and then last night it happened. It was just a thrill to do it in front my family. It was just an unbelievable feeling."

Unrest in Toronto -- At 0-5-1, many in Leafs Nation are calling for heads to roll, and more specifically coach Ron Wilson. Wilson however, isn't changing, and regardless of star stature or contracts, he is rewarding those who deserve it. In the case of the Leafs that means benching veterans like Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman in favor of young players like Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg, allowing them to seize the moment and take over some important roles on the team.

"Why not?" Wilson asked the Toronto Sun. "We need more from everyone; we're giving opportunities to younger guys."

Black and Blue

Boston -- Defenseman Dennis Wideman is day-to-day with a shoulder injury.

Buffalo -- Thomas Vanek suffered an upper-body injury Tuesday's win against Detroit, and coach Lindy Ruff said without specifying Vanek's injury, said the two-time 40-goal scorer would be out "weeks." Adam Mair is on injured reserve after offseason hip surgery but could be back this week. Defensemen Andrej Sekera is day-to-day with a rib injury.

Montreal -- Defenseman Andrei Markov is on injured reserve after severing a tendon in his left ankle in the season opener and is expected to miss up to four months. Fellow blueliner Ryan O'Byrne is on injured reserve and out indefinitely with a knee injury suffered in the second game of the season. Forward Glen Metropolit (ribs) is day-to-day.

Ottawa -- Forward Jesse Winchester is on injured reserve with a knee injury and forward Peter Regin is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Filip Kuba is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Toronto -- The Maple Leafs are without newly acquired forward Phil Kessel until at least mid-November while he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. Forward Wayne Primeau is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Defenseman Mike Van Ryn is on injured reserve with a knee injury. Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson is on injured reserve with a groin injury.

Quote of the Day

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery