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Hecht and Boyes will return, Vanek stays in

Lo and behold, there's actually very good news on the Sabres injury front. Coach Lindy Ruff confirmed after today's morning skate that Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht will both play tonight against the Washington Capitals, while Thomas Vanek will also be in the lineup after missing the third period Thursday in Toronto.

Hecht is going to center Vanek and Jason Pominville on the top line while Boyes will join Derek Roy and Drew Stafford on the second line.

"It's going to help, no doubt," Ruff said. "Jochen back in the middle should help against other teams' top lines. Brad was going pretty good when he got hurt, was good on the power play and should give us a couple stronger lines."

Hecht missed the first 20 games with concussion symptoms, played eight and then missed the last six after getting struck on the foot by a shot during the Dec. 9 game against Florida. Boyes, who played more than 500 consecutive games in the NHL , has missed 13 games with an ankle sprain suffered Nov. 23 against Boston.

Hecht had three goals and was plus-4 in his eight games. Boyes had two goals, six assists and was even in 21 games.

"It was frustrating getting injured again but I'm out there to do my job," said Hecht. "If I've got to block a shot, I block a shot. That happens. It's not what I was looking for but here we go again."

Boyes said it was an odd feeling to see the team skating with nearly two dozen players on the ice, a rarity the last six weeks.

"And it's an odd feeling coming off early too," Boyes said with a smile. "Normally I have to stay out and get bag-skated [extra drills run by the assistants for injured players] so that was a good feeling too."

Marc-Andre Gragnani will again be a scratch and Paul Szczechura is still here, likely just to make sure Hecht is OK. Derek Whitmore has been returned to Rochester.