Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff confirmed that injured leading scorer Thomas Vanek will be back in the Sabres' lineup tonight.
"He's going to skate this morning, but all indications point to him playing," Ruff said in his press conference minutes before the Sabres took their morning skate here at TD Garden.
The left winger, who has been sidelined with a left ankle injury ever since his collision with Boston's Johnny Boychuk in game two of this Stanley Cup Playoffs quarterfinal, led the Sabres in goals during the regular season (28) and would certainly provide a scoring boost.
Vanek was not made available to the media following the skate, but his imminent return is encouraging to his teammates. His dynamic playmaking on the wing should give them a boost on the power play, where the Sabres are currently 0 for 16 in the series.
"I think he's excited to be back. Obviously, it's tough for him to watch, I've talked to him about it," said goaltender Ryan Miller. "He does bring a new element to our offense. It looks like he's getting around the ice just fine. I kinda feel for him, because I was there about a year ago (February 2009), similar situation (high ankle sprain)."
Said center Derek Roy, "(I'm) pretty excited. He's definitely a good player, and everybody knows that, he's a talented goal scorer, and on the power play he's going to help us alot."
Ruff wouldn't say who's getting the healthy scratches tonight with this news of Vanek's return. But he says he made it clear in his talks with Vanek that it won't be a limited role, that he can't be touch-and-go at this point.
"I said to him that he has to go all in. It's all in right off the bat," Ruff said. "That doesn't mean that he is going to make it through the game or not make it through the game, I don't know. You can't ease into this game. It's all out right from the start. Then, we'll see where he's at after the first period, even after the first shift, and we'll see how he's doing."
Further elaborating on that latter point, he said, "I think this is the type of game that if one team is down, if you are down halfway through the game, coaches will tend to go to three lines. You are going to lay it all on the line anyways, and I would predict that unless it is tied and you are still rolling four lines, somebody is going to put some extra ice time on their key players to try and win a hockey game."