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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Thomas Vanek (Photo: Getty Images)
After missing the last nine games with a fractured jaw, Buffalo Sabres winger Thomas Vanek said he is ready to return to the lineup.

Vanek was hurt Feb. 7 in Ottawa after being hit in the face with a puck. He returned to practice last week with the protection of a cage.

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“I had a week of good skating, got back into the battle drills today and hopefully I can get cleared to play Wednesday [against the Montreal Canadiens],” he said.

For the Sabres, who have struggled to produce offensively as of late - registering three goals in the last three games - Vanek’s goal scoring will be welcomed. The winger is currently ranked eighth in the NHL with 32 goals through 54 games.

“It’s a big plus,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. “But I think the question is how ready is he going to be? Can he answer the physical, can he answer the conditioning? We hope he can.”

Vanek believes the injury may have worked in his favor.

“I think this is a little different because it’s not my hands or feet or anything so I was able to skate and shoot and stay pretty ready,” he said. “I don’t feel like I missed nine games.”

The three-week stretch is the longest amount of time the winger has missed in his NHL career. Prior to the jaw injury, Vanek played in all but one contest through four seasons in the League.

The winger said he will continue to wear the cage during games until the jaw is healed. He must also wear braces for another three weeks.
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