Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) -- The Buffalo Sabres dropped their third straight contest on Sunday, and did it without top scorer Thomas Vanek because of a muscle strain.
The forward suffered the strain in the second period of the team's home game against Carolina on Friday night. Vanek temporarily left the contest, but later returned in the third period.
A positive sign on Monday, Vanek took part in the team's optional practice.
"I felt a lot better today than I did yesterday, so we'll see how it reacts and how it feels tomorrow," Vanek said afterwards. Does he think he can play?
"I hope so."
That's the category that head coach Lindy Ruff seems to fall under as well. When asked about Vanek's availability for the team's next contest on Tuesday night, Ruff was hoping for the best.
"I would say that that looks… I'm optimistic about him playing tomorrow," the head coach said.
Vanek has been atop the team's scoring leaders since the season started. He has three goals and six assists in just four contests.
At this point, one of the most elementary aspects of playing hockey is what has given Vanek the most pain.
"Skating," he said. "If you can't skate, you're not gonna help out."
Vanek said he felt a lot better on the ice Monday in that respect, and then was asked what the key component to him suiting up will be.
"If I can skate," he said quite plainly.
Vanek was joined on the ice by seven other forwards during the optional practice. Marcus Foligno, Patrick Kaleta, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nathan Gerbe, Matt Ellis, John Scott and Cody McCormick also skated. All eight defensemen skated at one point in time on Monday. Robyn Regehr was only out there briefly. Both goaltenders participated as well.
Lindy Ruff provided a brief update on injured forward Ville Leino, saying there hasn't been much forward moving to speak of.
"He's just in the okay category," he said. "Even with the new treatment, progress seems slow"
The Sabres take on the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday at First Niagara Center. As always, you can hear the play-by-play action on WGR Sports Radio 550.