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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Thomas Vanek (Getty Images)

Thomas Vanek will be back in the lineup tonight as the Buffalo Sabres host the Ottawa Senators at HSBC Arena.

The winger missed the last three contests with an abdominal injury after being hit by a puck, experiencing severe bruising that affected his ability to skate.

“I can still feel it,” Vanek said. “But this is as good as I’ve felt in a week, so it’s a good sign for me.”

Vanek practiced on a line alongside Derek Roy and Jochen Hecht at the morning skate.

His return shifted the lines a bit, moving Tim Connolly to play on a line with Paul Gaustad and Mike Grier while Tim Kennedy centered Clarke MacArthur and Jason Pominville. In turn, Drew Stafford dropped to the fourth unit alongside Matt Ellis and Adam Mair.

On the injury front, in addition to gaining Vanek, the Sabres are also nearing returns from Chris Butler and Pat Kaleta. Butler has missed the last month with an ankle sprain while Kaleta has missed three out of the last four contests with a stiff neck. Both players participated in the morning skate today.

“They are right on the cusp of playing,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. “Kaleta indicated that he’d like to play tonight, but he hasn’t skated or practiced in four days, so that turns into a coach’s decision. Butler is in the same category.”

Ruff said the team would reevaluate Butler and Kaleta tomorrow before the team takes on the Blues in St. Louis. 

Gametime tonight is 7 p.m.

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