Niagara Gazette

March 19, 2008

SABRES NOTEBOOK: Goal taken from Roy; Numminen cleared to play

By Tim Schmitt/tschmitt@gnnewspaper.com

BUFFALO — It was the 30-30 Club, at least for a bit. It looked like longtime linemates Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy both reached the 30-goal plateau on the same night, as each scored during the third period of Buffalo’s 7-4 come-from-behind thriller at HSBC Arena on Wednesday.

Roy was originally credited with the tying goal, a floater that skipped over the shoulder of Tampa Bay goalie Karri Ramo. It would have marked Roy’s first 30-goal season as a pro. He had 21 in 2006-07 and 18 during his first season with Buffalo.

Vanek later scored two goals, and it looked like he’d finish the game with 30, as well.

But a post-game scoring change gave Vanek credit for Roy’s goal. Roy wasn’t aware of the scoring change when he spoke to the media after the game.

“It’s good that I’ve progressed as a player with people saying I’d never make it. It’s good, but it’s in the back of my mind right now,” he said. “The playoffs are ahead of us and I’m looking forward to that.”

As for Vanek, the big night came on the heels of a huge slump. After being named one of the league’s three stars for February, Vanek had managed just one point in eight March starts. The hat trick was his third of the season

“It’s been a struggle for six months,” Vanek joked when asked if he’s had a rough few weeks. “I’ve been trying to work hard all year long and when they go in it’s nice. But it’s more important that we got the win.”

•••

Teppo Numminen has been cleared to rejoin the team six months after having open heart surgery.

Numminen will practice with the Sabres today after completing a two-day evaluation, the team announced during the second intermission of their game against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

He hasn’t been cleared to play in a game. Buffalo has eight regular-season games remaining.

“We’ll have a better sense of where his fitness level is and we’ll go from there,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said.

For Numminen, it will be his first time back since he practiced with the team in early January. However, he was informed by team doctors at that time that he wouldn’t be cleared to play until mid-March, at the earliest, to allow his sternum additional time to heal.

His return can’t come at a better time for an injury-depleted Sabres team that has three regular defenseman — Jaroslav Spacek (ribs), Dmitri Kalinin (right shoulder) and Nathan Paetsch (concussion) — out of the lineup.

Numminen re-signed with the Sabres to a one-year, $2.6 million contract in July. He’s spent the season on the team’s suspended list, so his contract doesn’t count against the salary cap. Regier said he’ll lift the suspension when Numminen is able to play, and at that time Numminen will begin to get paid.

•••

Lindy Ruff continued to mess with his lines, but Vanek, Roy and Drew Stafford certainly seemed to click in the third. The fourth, fifth and sixth goals all read the same on the scoring sheet — Vanek from Roy and Stafford.

“You’re never safe on a line. It doesn’t matter where you’re playing,” Roy said. “(Ruff) said he’d play the lines that played the hardest. Right now, everyone’s trying to battle for spots and get some ice time.”

•••

Andrej Sekera was a minus-7 on the season heading into last Friday’s game against Carolina. It hasn’t taken long for the young defenseman to reverse that stat.

After posting a plus-4 against the Hurricanes and a plus-2 the following night in Toronto, Sekera was a plus-5 Wednesday.

He wasn’t the only one. Mike Weber also added a plus-5 on the night and is now a plus-13 in his last four games.

Contact group sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266. The Associated Press contributed to this story.