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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres

Thomas Vanek missed his third straight game with an upper body injury last night, but that streak should come to an end tomorrow when the Dallas Stars come to First Niagara Center. Vanek practiced with the team again today, and said afterwards that he’s ready to go.

“I’m hoping to, we’ll see how it reacts today,” he explained. “But that’s my goal. We’ll see.”


Lindy Ruff will be more than happy to write Vanek’s name on the lineup sheet again, but he’ll leave the final decision on his return up to Vanek himself.

“We put him through a battery of extra tests after practice. We’ll see how he’s feeling in the morning,” said Ruff. “He’s the only one who knows whether he can go or not. If he says he’s ready to go, and doesn’t have any ill effects from what happened today, then he’ll be back in.”


But figuring out exactly who Vanek will play with when he returns is the $64,000 question. Vanek practiced on a line with Brad Boyes and Patrick Kaleta today, but that was only due to Paul Gaustad’s “maintenance day” off.

And with Ville Leino quickly developing a chemistry over the last few games with Jason Pominville and Derek Roy, it’s not a given at this point that Vanek will be slotted in his usual spot on the left side of the top team’s top line.

Vanek understands that could be the case.

“Life goes on,” Vanek said with a smile. “The line’s been playing well. In the three games I missed, the team’s played great. For me, it’s try to find a spot in the lineup and work myself up again … I know what I have to do to produce. To me it doesn’t matter. I’m just hoping to be back in, contribute and play well.”

Ruff said Jochen Hecht is starting to feel better, after suffering post-concussion symptoms two weeks ago in New Jersey following a hit from TJ Oshie in St. Louis on January 21.

“They’ve done some further examination. I think right now they’re going to do a (non-surgical) procedure on his neck, where maybe some of that pain has been coming from. So a little bit of a different evaluation with him.”

If the procedure is successful, Ruff wouldn’t rule out Hecht returning to the lineup this season.
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