Thomas Vanek missed Saturday's game in Ottawa after getting crushed Thursday in Boston by Johnny Boychuk and skated this morning for the first time since the hit, but he's going to be back in the lineup tonight when the Sabres host the Montreal Canadiens.
Vanek was belted Jan. 31 by Montreal's Erik Cole and has been dealing with lingering shoulder issues for several weeks, even though he insists they have not been a factor in his rough play (just four goals in 2012). Vanek said today the Boychuk hit caused a different problem, believed to be related to his neck.
"I didn't see him coming until I was laying on the ice," Vanek said. "It's part of the game, part of hockey. It happens and I've got to have my head up. It was a good hockey hit. I saw the replay and I just had my head down."
Vanek was unable to do any off-ice work while the team was in Ottawa but said he felt much better today.
"Each day I got a little bit better," he said. "Obviously the first couple of days after, just tight and stiff and sore. The last two days, I came a long way so I feel pretty good. i would like to play, especially this time of year it hurts missing games and watching them. We're not in a position to sit back and relax obviously."
Elsewhere on the injury front, coach Lindy Ruff said Matt Ellis suffered a knee injury Saturday and will be out for an extended period. Ruff refused to call it a season-ending injury, although that's what it seems like. The news on defenseman Andrej Sekera continues to be grim, with Ruff saying he's now been diagnosed with pneumonia and has yet to leave him since he became ill. Alexander Sulzer will play his fourth straight game tonight in Sekera's spot. Patrick Kaleta (neck) couldn't finish the game Saturday but he will play tonight.
Marcus Foligno, who scored his first career goal Saturday, will make his regular-season home debut tonight. He said his father, former Sabres captain Mike Foligno, will make the trip from his home in Sudbury, Ont., to watch the game.
Click below for audio from Vanek and Ruff, who had some interesting thoughts on comparing the Folignos.