Thomas Vanek, who has been the Sabres' top scorer since the opening weekend of the season, has been missing because of injury for only three games. It may have been long enough to lose a spot on the top line.
Vanek, who suffered an upper-body injury Jan. 31, practiced today and expects to be ready to play Friday when Dallas visits First Niagara Center.
"We’ll see how it reacts today, but that’s my goal," Vanek said. "We’ll see."
Ville Leino has stepped into Vanek's left wing spot on the first line with center Derek Roy and right wing Jason Pominville. The trio has combined for three goals and seven points in the three games, leading some to question whether Vanek would be placed elsewhere should he come back.
"Geez, life goes on," he said slowly with a smile. "The line’s been playing well. The three games I missed the team played great. For me, it’s just to try and find a spot in the lineup then work myself up again."
Vanek skated with center Brad Boyes and right wing Patrick Kaleta today, but that was mainly because Paul Gaustad missed the session for a "maintenance day." Gaustad will be back Friday.
"When he’s ready we’ll just have to evaluate it and drop him in," coach Lindy Ruff said of Vanek. "Obviously, we know he can make a big difference on the power play for us, but we want to make sure he’s ready, too.
"We put him through a battery of extra tests there after practice. We’ll see how he’s feeling in the morning. He’s the only one who really knows whether he can go or not, and if he says he’s ready to go and doesn’t have any ill effects from what happened today, he’ll be back in."
Ruff, who has three broken ribs, watched practice alone from Section 104 while assistant coach James Patrick kept the role of acting bench boss.
To hear Ruff's interview, which includes mention of an upcoming neck procedure for concussed forward Jochen Hecht, click the audio file below.