BOSTON — Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff confirmed after his team’s morning skate at TD Garden today that forward Drew Stafford will be back in the lineup, while Thomas Vanek — as expected — will be out for tonight’s Game 3of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Bruins.
Stafford has been out since suffering a concussion April 10 against Ottawa.
“I was close (Saturday). It was just a matter of making sure and being 100 percent. Obviously it went well yesterday and I’m ready to go,” said Stafford.
Stafford finished the regular season with 14-20-34 totals in 71 games this season. It’d be unfair to expect him to replace Vanek (28-25-53 in 71 games). But he’s going to at least soften the blow to the Sabres’ lineup.
“It’ll be good for us to get (Stafford) back,” fellow forward Mike Grier said. “He’s one of our most talented forwards and he’s a big strong guy. In a series like this, you need big, strong forwards. He can hold onto the puck and he’s capable of stepping in and scoring some goals. So losing ‘Van’ hurts but we’re lucky to have someone like Drew be ready to fill in a little bit.”
Vanek suffered a lower-body injury in the first period of Game 2 after he was slashed by Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk and crashed into the end wall. Ruff said there’s been no progress on Vanek’s recovery.
“Same as yesterday. No step back, but no progress. The same as yesterday,” said the Buffalo coach.