A Buffalo Sabres team that has spent most of the season near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings got a big boost from the return of Thomas Vanek on Saturday, and tied a season-high with their third straight victory. Vanek missed Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a hip injury, but made his presence known in Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, scoring both Sabres goals.
The Sabres got their second victory of the season over the Canadiens thanks not just to Vanek but from a solid night from Ryan Miller as well. It has been an especially rough season for the star netminder, but he turned in a 38-save performance against a Canadiens team that averages the fifth-most goals per game in the NHL.
After an incredibly hot start to the season, Vanek’s offensive production has been incredibly spotty. He scored six goals and had 15 points in the first 15 games of the season but had only managed two goals and four points in seven March games prior to Saturday. Vanek has 16 goals and 33 points to lead the team, as he, Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson continue to be its best offensive weapons. The short season leads to endless possibilities for teams to get back into postseason contention with one good stretch of games, and that’s what the Sabres have done. They currently sit in 10th in the conference, just two points away from the final playoff spot. If Vanek has found his scoring touch again, they should be able to keep climbing.