Sabres winger Thomas Vanek was inching closer to returning to the lineup after missing both games over the weekend with an upper-body injury. Vanek was bumped around during an upbeat practice Monday in the Amherst Pepsi Center and showed little sign of pain.
Vanek wasn't sure whether he would be available for Wednesday's game against the Florida Panthers but he appeared to be getting better. He wanted to evaluate the injury, believed to be his ribs, for another two days before making a final decision. If he's not ready Wednesday, he should be available Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said the veteran winger probably would have played over the weekend if it were the playoffs. They wanted to take a conservative approach because it was so early in the season. Vanek suffered the injury last week against the Red Wings after colliding with Brad May.
"It's something I could play through, but it's something I have to be smart about so I don't make it worse," Vanek said. "We still have a couple of day here. Hopefully, I can take a couple of strides in a positive direction and get back. Overall, I feel OK. Just shooting and stuff, it still hurts."
Clarke MacArthur also missed practice with the flu. He's expected to make the trip to South Florida. Ruff still had no timetable for Andrej Sekera's return.
--- Bucky Gleason