Vanek, Hecht, Boyes All Playing Tonight

Updated: December 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm by Alexander Monaghan

The Buffalo Sabres received a few late Christmas presents this morning as three scoring forwards are expected to draw back into the lineup tonight when Lindy Ruff and company host the Washington Capitals.

Not only will Jochen Hecht return as the top line center, he will be flanked by leading scorer Thomas Vanek. Meanwhile, former iron-man Brad Boyes slots into the second line alongside Drew Stafford and Derek Roy. For the team’s full lines, click here.

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On Saturday night, Thomas Vanek left the ice during the Buffalo Sabres’ embarrassing 8-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The elite winger was already fighting through some undisclosed injury but managed to score a goal before stepping off the ice. Call it tough, determined or stupid but Vanek went right back into the game.

Over the past week, Vanek has sat out of practice but managed to lace them up for the team’s games. Both he and Lindy Ruff understand the damage his absence would cause.

In what was supposed to be a marquee season in Buffalo, the Sabres continue to be decimated by injuries. Whether you want to blame it on a tumultuous travel schedule that includes a League-high 20 back-to-back contests or on the demanding playing style that coach Ruff implements, this team has a problem staying on the ice.

With Corey Tropp, Brad Boyes, Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, Ville Leino, Tyler Myers and Jochen Hecht currently sidelined and Jordan Leopold, Ryan Miller, Paul Gaustad, Drew Stafford and Patrick Kaleta missing assorted periods of time, calling the Sabres unlucky is an understatement.

So when Vanek left last night’s game after periods, you know it was the absolute worst-case scenario with his current ‘upper-body injury’.

Ruff thinks this current injury is simply a day-to-day infliction and would not further specify what is currently bothering the Austrian left wing. From The Buffalo News:

“It’s the same thing he’s been nursing. He couldn’t go,” Ruff said. “He’s missed two practices. We didn’t have a lot of options. He tried to get through it and wasn’t able to.”

Vanek’s long-time center and linemate Derek Roy gave the Buffalo News a little bit more information on the injury in his postgame interview. “He gave a valiant effort trying to come out and play hard,” said Roy. “Nobody knows that you’re hurt but you’re playing hurt. He just didn’t have it tonight. He was a little bit too sore.”

To summarize, Vanek is sore with a nagging injury and may or may not be able to gut through it.

The Sabres play again on Monday night when they host the Washington Capitals. They then play three more games to round out 2011 followed by back-to-back games in each of the first three weeks of 2012. We should know shortly just how many games will be played with No. 26.