BUFFALO, N.Y. – Buffalo Sabres all-star Thomas Vanek will be sidelined three to four weeks after having surgery Sunday to repair a fractured jaw.
Vanek, whose 32 goals ranks third in the league, was hurt in the first period Saturday night in Ottawa after being struck in the face by a slapshot by Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov.
The Austrian native clutched his bloodied mouth and immediately skated off the ice and into the Sabres dressing room.
“He was in a lot of pain,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said after the game. “The teeth got pushed up a little bit.”
The injury comes just as the Sabres appear to be hitting their stride. They’ve won two of their last three, and are 11-5-1 in their last 17 games to move into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of eighth-place Carolina.
Vanek had played in a team-high 225 consecutive games. The four-year pro has only missed one regular season game since the Sabres selected him with the fifth overall pick in 2003, and that was when he was a healthy scratch against Toronto in April 2006 during his rookie year.
Vanek is the second Sabres player in the last month to miss time because of a jaw injury. Defenceman Teppo Numminen missed six games because of a small bone fracture in his jaw sustained Jan. 17 against Carolina. Numminen was struck by a shot by Hurricanes defenceman Tim Gleason.
The 25-year-old Vanek was the first player in the league to score 20 goals this season and was on pace to eclipse his career-high of 43 goals scored in 2006-07. He notched his fifth career hat trick, and fourth natural hat trick, in Wednesday’s win against Toronto, becoming just the second player in NHL history to have four consecutive natural hat tricks.
Cy Denneny of the old Ottawa Senators was the other, accomplishing the feat during a 14-month period that began in February 1923.