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by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres
When training camp opened in September, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville skated on what looked to be the team’s top line with Derek Roy. After Roy injured his shoulder in the preseason, rookie Luke Adam stepped in and didn’t interrupt the chemistry that had developed between Vanek and Pominville.

The duo, since being reunited with Roy at the start of the third period against Montreal on Monday, has been in on four of the team’s last six goals. Vanek and Pominville each come into tonight’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes on a six-game point streak. Despite their hot stretch, they both feel that there is constantly room to improve.

“There are games where we didn’t create as much as we would have liked, but sometimes you create more than you end up with,” Pominville said after this morning’s team meeting.

Both players also find themselves near the top of the league when it comes to scoring. Pominville is currently fifth in the league in points with 23 and his 15 assists rank him fourth overall. Vanek is currently second in the league with 24 points and fourth in goals with 11.

In his last 36 regular season games since March 5, Vanek has scored 20 goals and 45 points. During that stretch of time, he ranks second only to Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin in points (46) and to reigning Hart Trophy Winner Corey Perry of the Ducks in goals (25). 

“With Jason, I’ve found a partner on the side I feel comfortable with,” Vanek said. “…For any player to do well, you need good linemates and I’ve had those.”

Tonight is the fifth of 21 sets of back-to-back games for the Sabres. Instead of a game day skate at the usually scheduled time of 10 a.m. this morning, head coach Lindy Ruff opted to hold a team meeting at 11 a.m. followed by an optional skate.

Buffalo has seven sets of games this season in which the first game of the back-to-back is on the road and the second game is at First Niagara Center. Ruff said that the team will plan on flipping ice times the morning after and allow players to get the proper amount of sleep in those similar situations.

“I actually thought we did a real good job of – it’s a little thing – but getting out of Carolina and getting back home,” Ruff said. “We can’t get home that quick coming home from Montreal or Ottawa from a shorter destination.”

Ten of the team’s next 12 games are also at home and the Sabres are looking to find a way to translate their 7-2-0 road record into wins at home, where they are 5-5-0.

“We want to play the same way,” Vanek said. “We want to go after that first one, get the lead and then just keep playing. I think sometimes when we get the lead in this building, we don’t want to sit back, but we tend to do it and that’s when you get in trouble."

On the injury front, the Sabres are dealing with both short and long-term health issues. Ruff said that forward Cody McCormick still isn’t ready and that defenseman Mike Weber will likely miss a few more weeks. When asked about the status of goaltender Ryan Miller, Ruff said that he is “doing better. Still not quite right, but doing better.” Center Jochen Hecht and winger Tyler Ennis are “close” to returning to action, according to Ruff. Hecht is now day-to-day while Ruff categorized Ennis’ status as “every other day.”

Ruff said that defenseman T.J. Brennan has been sent back down to the team’s AHL affiliate in Rochester. Brennan was called up for last night’s game in Carolina but sat out as a healthy scratch.

Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt will play in his 700th career NHL game tonight. In 11 seasons, he has scored 123 goals and 251 points. Pyatt played with the Sabres from 2001-06, tallying 38 goals in 230 games.
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