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Benching surprises Vanek

ATLANTA -- Thomas Vanek was in the doghouse Saturday night. He said he's been tethered near it since the season started.

Vanek was the only Buffalo Sabres skater who didn't get a shift in the third period of Saturday's 4-2 loss to Ottawa. Even seldom-used enforcer Andrew Peters had 18 seconds of ice time as the team tried to come back against the Senators.

But Vanek, the rookie who's second on the team in goals with 23, never got off the bench. As he sat in Ottawa's Scotiabank Place after practice Sunday morning, he admitted being surprised.

"Yeah, definitely," Vanek said. "But all season long I haven't been playing much. They've put me on a short leash. I didn't have the best 40 minutes for myself, and I just got benched for it. There's nothing you can do about it.

"I'm not happy about it. Obviously, I would like to go out there and redeem myself and help the team win. I think I could have helped a little bit. But it's over now. It's just a game of hockey. You've got to get over it and see what you can do (today)."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff wasn't with the team Sunday to take care of personal matters, but he said Saturday night he didn't like Vanek's turnovers. The left winger's last shift was on a five-on-three power play with about seven minutes to go in the second period.

"It came down to the guys that are going the hardest," Ruff said. "We had a five-on-three where I didn't like the determination. We had a three-on-one where we don't get a shot, and part of that was our decision making wasn't very good."

Vanek said he missed a few assignments and "wasn't in the game," but he wanted a chance in the third. He should get one tonight as the Sabres play in Atlanta.

"Always after you get benched or have a bad game you always look forward to the next one and hope you get a chance there," Vanek said.


Center Tim Connolly practiced fully with the Sabres before they flew to Georgia, but he couldn't say whether he'll play tonight. There's still a strain in his left medial collateral ligament. Ruff said Thursday that Connolly was expected back for tonight's game, then he backtracked Friday and said Connolly could be out longer.

"I don't know. It's a day-to-day thing," Connolly said. "I'll have to talk to the docs to see how they feel about it."


Right wing Maxim Afinogenov missed practice because of illness but looked like he should play against the Thrashers. Defenseman Toni Lydman continued his post-Olympic policy of resting on practice days. Forward Adam Mair is skating well while coming back from a concussion but is still wearing a noncontact jersey.


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