Three missing from Buffalo practice

WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Sabres hit the Ristuccia Arena ice this afternoon right after the Bruins were done.

Thomas Vanek, who missed Game 3 with a lower-body injury, did not skate. Neither did Matt Ellis, who returned to Game 3 after the massive hit from Johnny Boychuk Monday, or Jochen Hecht, who has been out all series with a finger injury.

Ellis was given a maintenance day. He hopes to skate Wednesday morning preparation for Game 4. He also declared what we all already knew: that the hit by Boychuk was clean.

“It was a pretty good jolt,” said Ellis. “That’s a heck of a hit. I’m sure that one’s that going to turn up on some Don Cherry tapes or something like that later on. But it was a good jolt, it was a good hit and it’s playoff hockey.”

Ellis said he felt no symptoms of a concussion, but did feel a bit of a stinger in his shoulder and also suffered a bloody nose.

•As for Vanek, he is still wearing a protective boot over his injured left foot. He claimed there’s been improvement, even after head coach Lindy Ruff said there had been no change.

“I’m not getting discouraged,” Ruff said about Vanek’s progress. “We understand it could be one of those things where the next day could be better. We’re running into that point now, with no exercise for a few days that even if it is better, it could take a couple practices.”

•Ruff was asked if Game 4 is a must-win. He said no and added, “It’s a must play well. It’s a must compete hard and must play well.”

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