By Mike Harrington
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Sabres worked out for about an hour this afternoon in the BB&T Center, home of the Florida Panthers. All of them, that is, except for Thomas Vanek. Interim coach Ron Rolston said Vanek has an upper-body muscle strain but wouldn't automatically rule him out for Thursday's game against the Panthers.
Vanek, however, was seen walking around the locker room area rather gingerly and not looking like a guy who might be on the ice in an NHL game in about 30 hours.
Drew Stafford skated in Vanek's spot with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino and Rolston said Stafford, a healthy scratch the last two games, is playing tomorrow night whether or not Vanek can go.
"We just want him to go out there and make things happen for our team and lead the way for us," Rolston said. "He's in that position [an assistant captain] because he earned it and that's what he's got to do. Lately, it's been a reminder about the things he's got to get back to more than anything. All of our guys just can't take for granted they're going to be in the lineup. We need them to play a certain way."
Rolston wants Stafford to shoot. He wants anybody to shoot. The Sabres had 14 shots on goal Tuesday, with their forwards combining for only 10.
"It's real basic. Same on the power play," Rolston said. "We have a tendency to be too cute, try to make one extra pass. You don't score many goals that way. We just have to get pucks to the net."
With less than a week left until the trade deadline, Stafford said he's simply trying to improve his game and is not focused on going somewhere else.
"That's not something I was thinking about. I need to ignore the noise, focus on getting better and improving myself," Stafford said. "Being out of the lineup, my No. 1 priority is focusing on coming back, playing strong and playing hard and helping this team win games. That's all about where my head is at."