WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Buffalo Sabres winger Thomas Vanek returned to the lineup Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets after missing six games with an upper-body injury.
The Sabres didn’t practice Monday so there was some thought it might be tough for Vanek to return. But in reality, he probably benefitted from two days in a row off. Interim coach Ron Rolston kept him off the ice entirely Sunday for the pregame skate and the game against New Jersey.
Vanek entered Tuesday’s game leading the Sabres in goals (16) and points (33). He moved back on the wing with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford, and Luke Adam was a healthy scratch.
Joining Adam as a scratch was winger Ville Leino and Rolston admitted for the first time he’s not expecting Leino to return this season because of an upper-body injury. Rolston denied rumors Leino has had surgery, either for this injury or his ailing hip that kept him out nearly two months, but said the winger who has only played eight games is probably done for the year.
Said Rolston: “With our schedule and the number of games we have left, it’s highly unlikely he’d be back.”
Center Kevin Porter spent his off night here glued to the TV watching Michigan, his alma mater, lose the NCAA basketball tournament final to Louisville.
“That was a tough game to watch,” said Porter, a former Hobey Baker winner as college hockey’s top player for the Wolverines in 2008. “I thought they had it when they were up 12 points in the first half. It was a good game. They fought hard.”
Porter had huge praise for Michigan coach John Beilein, the Burt native and former ECC and Canisius coach.
“Everyone knew he was going to turn it around,” Porter said. “It was going to take some time but he was going to bring in some recruits and he has. He gets one step away from winning it. It’s great that he’s there and has turned that program around.”
The Sabres will hold Fan Appreciation Night during the home finale April 26 against the New York Islanders. There will be numerous giveaways, a 50-percent off sale at the Sabres Store and family-friendly prices on arena concessions. Fans can sign up at Sabres.com to enter a contest for a grand prize of a trip for two Disney World.
Two winners will be selected on April 23 and will get tickets to the game. They will then participate in a contest to see who wins the trip. Two fans will be picked at the game to vie for the other grand prize, a year’s supply of gasoline.
Sabres players again will give away their game-worn jerseys to select season-ticket holders after the game in the “Jersey Off My Back” promotion. There will be 2,000 balloons dropped from the rafters after the game’s final buzzer and 500 will contain prize slips. The team will also announce its 7th Man of the Year contest winner from essays submitted on Sabres.com