By Mike Harrington
Turns out Thomas Vanek's "maintenance day" off at Friday's practice, his second of the week, was a sign of bigger issues. Vanek will miss today's game against New Jersey in First Niagara Center, interim coach Ron Rolston confirmed to reporters during his pre-game briefing during the 1 o'clock hour.
Rolston said Vanek is dealing with upper-body issues but the coach is expecting him to play tomorrow night against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. Vanek leads the Sabres in goals (12), assists (15) and points (27), and enters today third in the NHL in points behind Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby (31 apiece).
Despite the numbers, Vanek clearly hasn't looked right in recent games: He has no goals in the last five and just one in the last nine.
"He's a major part of our team," said Rolston, who noted Vanek reported to the rink still sore this morning. "We're trying to get him time off when we can. These are just situations where the last couple games, there's been real physical play on Thomas because he's a leading scorer in the league. ... It's on and off basically but I think it's something that he can definitely manage and be back in there."
Marcus Foligno, a healthy scratch Thursday at Florida, gets a big chance at redemption as he will start on left wing on the top line with Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville. John Scott will be the forward scratch. Brian Flynn, called up last night from Rochester, will play wing today; we'll have to watch the warmups for the other lines.
Flynn, naturally was thrilled with his first NHL callup. He got one of the only two goals in the team's training camp scrimmage here on Jan. 14 and that experience is helping him today.
"All the guys have treated me extremely well since I got here," Flynn said. "I think playing in that scrimmage definitely helped out a lot at least putting the face with the name and they can do the same with me."
Flynn said he was taking a nap last night around 5:30 when he got the word from Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy. He will wear No. 65 and play wing today.
"I like to think I'm a responsible two-way guy," said Flynn who had 16 goals and 16 assists in Rochester and was tied for the team lead in goals. "I think I"m pretty quick. I can use my speed and hopefully I can chip in a little with secondary scoring."
Click the audio files below for the sessions with Rolston and Flynn today. And stay tuned for our live blog, which opens at 3 and will feature a second intermission FlashChat.
taggedRon Rolston | Thomas Vanek