Thomas Vanek will be back in the Sabres' lineup tonight against the Dallas Stars after missing three games with an upper-body injury. Paul Gaustad, who sat out yesterday for maintenance, will also play. So that means Jochen Hecht is the only regular on the sidelines.
"[Vanek] has had a history of coming off stretches where he's been hurt, he's come back and he's gone pretty good," said coach Lindy Ruff. "We're hoping he can take off now that he's had a few games off."
Ruff said he can't see changing the lines from Wednesday's 6-0 win over Boston, so that means Ville Leino will stay with Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. Vanek likely displaces Nathan Gerbe and goes in with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford rather than rejoining Pominville, which had been one of the NHL's top 1-2 combos for the season's first three months.
"I took the [all-star] break, really came back refreshed and then in the first period [Jan. 31] in Montreal, I created chances and had a good chance myself," Vanek said. "Then the injury happened. I can create some stuff on my own ... and make my teammates better. That's my goal every game. It doesn't matter who you play with. You want to elevate their game and i want to elevate my game. So it's a good opportunity."
Luke Adam and Marc-Andre Gragnani will be the scratches. Adam has 10 goals on the season -- but not even a single point in his last 20 games. He seems closer than ever to a trip to Rochester.
"It's a thought just to get him going, get him back on the scoresheet," Ruff admitted. "He's definitely had his struggles but it isn't something we've discussed yet."
The Stars posted a 4-2 win last night in Columbus and are thus not skating this morning. Here's a stat to keep in mind that's hugely in Buffalo's favor: The Stars are 0-8-1 this season in the second game of back-to-backs.
Ryan Miller will be in goal for the Sabres against Dallas backup Richard Bachman, who joins Jhonas Enroth as the NHL's shortest goalies at 5-10. Both were drafted in 2006 (Enroth 46th and Bachman 120th).
Late-afternoon update: Veteran scribe Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports the Stars have changed their mind and will go with starter Kari Lehtonen in goal on back-to-back nights rather than use Bachman. Heika also reports veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray will miss the game after getting struck in the foot by a puck in Columbus.
Miller's 0.95 goals-against average and .969 save percentage over the last five games are the best in his career for any five-game stretch. Bachman is 6-3-1, 2.72, .912 this season.