WINNIPEG -- Interim head coach Ron Rolston classified Thomas Vanek as a “possibility” for tonight’s game in Winnipeg, as the Buffalo Sabres (16-17-6) put their three-game winning streak on the line against the equally-desperate Jets (19-19-2). Buffalo’s leading scorer has missed the last six games with an upper body injury sustained in Tampa on March 26.
The injured Buffalo winger showed no visible signs of discomfort during drills at today’s morning skate at the MTS Centre, but stayed on the ice longer than most of his teammates. When Vanek came off the ice, he would only smile when asked by reporters if he’ll be back in the lineup tonight.
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Buffalo enters tonight’s game on their third three-game winning streak of the season, and will attempt to win four straight for the first time since they won five in a row from March 19-27, 2012.
Ryan Miller will make his fifth straight start in goal for Buffalo; posting a record of 3-1-0 in the previous four games. In Miller’s last start, he stole two points for the Sabres by making 37 saves and stopping all three Devils’ shooters in a 3-2 shootout win over New Jersey on Sunday.
Winnipeg comes into the game having lost five of its last six games, after snapping a five-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday. The Jets are just 9-9-0 at home this season in the raucous MTS Centre, after posting a 23-13-5 home record last season.
It’s been a while since the Sabres have won a regular season game in Winnipeg; 20 years in fact. The Sabres were 0-2-0 in their two visits to Winnipeg last season as the Jets returned to the NHL after relocating from Atlanta.
Buffalo’s last win in the province of Manitoba was a 6-2 decision on February 10, 1993. Pat LaFontaine was involved in every Buffalo goal that night, collecting one goal and five assists. In the middle of his record-setting 76-goal season, Alexander Mogilny scored four times and added an assist. Grant Fuhr defeated Bob Essensa to earn the win in net. Sabres assistant coach Teppo Numminen was playing for the Jets at the time, but missed this game due to injury.
Buffalo only played two more games in Winnipeg before they relocated to Phoenix in 1996.
To take this stat one step further, when the Sabres last won in Winnipeg, Jochen Hecht was the oldest current player at 15 years old; Ryan Miller was only 12; and rookie defenseman Mark Pysyk had just celebrated his first birthday one month earlier.