Buffalo Sabres

2010 NHL Playoffs: Buffalo Sabres in Trouble Without Star Thomas Vanek

BUFFALO, NY - APRIL 17:  Thomas Vanek #26  of the Buffalo Sabres is helped off the ice in the first period against the Boston Bruins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HSBC Arena on April 17, 2010  in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Matthew HoganAnalyst IApril 19, 2010

Buffalo Sabres’ star forward Thomas Vanek is doubtful for Monday’s Game Three against the Boston Bruins.

With the Sabres’ leading 2-0 in the first period of Game Two, Vanek tried to pull away on a breakaway when Boston’s Johnny Boychuk slashed Vanek across the knee, causing him to slam into the boards.

Vanek left the game and Buffalo eventually lost 5-3 to even the series at one.

“This morning I expected to be sore, which I am and I’ll just see how it feels tomorrow,” Vanek told the Buffalo News on Sunday. “I’m hoping to play...I’m still hoping for tomorrow even though I know deep-down it’s a stretch. I would say Wednesday then. If it’s not Wednesday then, I don’t know. Maybe the next game. But the good part is that I feel like and we feel like I’ll be back for the series.”

The Sabres are certainly no strangers to having injuries cost them seasons.

In their surprise 2006 playoff run, the Sabres lost four defensemen—including chief shot-blocker Jay McKee and current Sabre Henrik Tallinder—and seven players in total, before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Last year, after putting up some of the best stats of his career, Ryan Miller’s season was cut short on Feb. 21 by Scott Gomez in a game against the New York Rangers.

Miller’s high ankle sprain ruined his chances at a potential first Vezina Trophy and ended the Sabres’ chances at making the playoffs. Buffalo went 4-7-2 without Miller between the pipes.

The Sabres were hit with a few injuries before the beginning of this year’s postseason as well.

Jochen Hecht had a setback with his finger injury before the playoffs and it was announced that he would miss “weeks” as opposed to the “days” he was supposed to miss.

Drew Stafford is going through a few last minute tests to see if he will be able to return from a late-season concussion for game three on Monday night.

It seemed things were getting better until Vanek went down in the first period of Saturday’s game two loss.

“The playoffs are about losing people, and people stepping in and playing bigger roles,” Ruff told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Vanek had five goals over the course of Buffalo’s last two regular season games. He also had two points in two playoffs games thus far.

So, which Sabre will step up in Vanek’s absence?

Tim Connolly will need to play better than his minus-two rating and zero points suggest.

Despite having one goal in two postseason games this year, Jason Pominville is playing just over 17 minutes of ice-time per game and is a team-worst minus-three.

Raffi Torres, whom the Sabres acquired on the March 3 trade deadline, has only one shot in the playoffs and has not scored since joining the team.

Someone needs to fills Vanek’s red-hot skates immediately, or it could be a very disappointing postseason for the Sabres.

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