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Injured Vanek could be lost for weeks

I It was a big win and a big loss all at once Tuesday for the Buffalo Sabres.

Thomas Vanek left for good with 7:14 to play in the second period after scoring his second goal in the 6-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Coach Lindy Ruff revealed Vanek will miss several weeks with an undisclosed upper body injury.

Vanek slid hard into the end boards after scoring the goal on Derek Roy's third assist in a 4 1/2 -minute span, but Ruff said the injury actually occurred before that play. Television shots of Vanek on the bench before the shift showed Vanek grimacing while moving his neck/shoulder area.

Vanek's shoulder was not in a sling when he left the locker room about 40 minutes after the game was over, and he was believed to have undergone X-rays on his ribs.

"It was before the goal, when I collided with [former Sabre Brad] May," Vanek told The Buffalo News. "I went to hit him, and it happened there. I just finished the shift and felt it after. I knew right away and just tried to tough it out. After the shift, I just got it checked out."

"It's tough but we've got extra players," Ruff said. "Every team is going to have to deal with injuries. You look at what Detroit is dealing with, with [Johan] Franzen out of the lineup [with a knee injury]. Every team is going to miss key players along the way."

Vanek, a two-time 40-goal scorer who is the first Sabre to three goals this year, missed nine games last season after suffering a broken jaw during a February game in Ottawa after taking a deflected puck to the face.

Vanek, of course, is on the Sabres' top line with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford and his absence could prompt Ruff into some pronounced line juggling.

"It's unfortunate," Roy said. "He played really well tonight at both ends. He was backchecking and forechecking, and it's going to be a huge miss."

Whose turn is it to come into the lineup? Daniel Paille has sat out all four games thus far as a healthy scratch while Adam Mair has been on the injured list after hip surgery.

The Sabres could also dip into the minor leagues and call up Nathan Gerbe from Portland of the American Hockey League.

* * *

It was the first head-to-head NHL meeting for Sabres rookie Tim Kennedy and his former Michigan State linemate, Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader. Neither registered a point and both were minus-1.

Kennedy, the South Buffalo native, fed Abdelkader for the game-winning goal with 18.9 seconds left in the 2007 NCAA Frozen Four championship game against Boston College and fed him again Monday night with dinner at Chef's.

"I told him to have as much cheese as he could," Kennedy said prior to the game. "Hopefully that would slow him down."

"It was funny to eat there with him," said Abdelkader. "It seemed like everybody who walked in the restaurant knew who he was."

Abdelkader, a Michigan native, scored his first two career goals in last year's Stanley Cup finals against Pittsburgh.

"You make your dream come [true] in the NHL and then it's with the team and the guys you watched and being in the same locker room with them," Abdelkader said. "It's something I cherish and keeps me fired up."

* * *

Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman played 16 minutes, 49 seconds in his first game of the season after suffering a hand injury late in preseason. . . . The Sabres entered the game 28th in the NHL in faceoffs at 42.8 percent but won 33 of 53 in this one. . . . Ryan Miller's second-period penalty shot save on Valtteri Filppula made him 9 for 10 in his career. . . . Defenseman Henrik Tallinder was a career-best plus-5.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com and mharrington@buffnews.com

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