Sabres' Tage Thompson returns as Red Wings await Patrick Kane debut

Tage Thompson scores short-handed goal vs. Maple Leafs (0:51)

Tage Thompson scores short-handed goal vs. Maple Leafs (0:51)

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tage Thompson will return to the Buffalo Sabres' lineup Tuesday when they face the Detroit Red Wings, who are still waiting on Patrick Kane to debut.

The Sabres have been missing Thompson the past nine games since he took a shot off the wrist against Boston on Nov. 14. Buffalo has been in a slump of late with three consecutive losses piling up ahead of Tuesday's tilt against Detroit, and more injuries -- including to Alex Tuch earlier this week -- becoming a factor.

Thompson said he didn't feel pressured to get back, though, even after Tuch suffered a lower-body injury Sunday that will hold him out up to 10 days.

"I wouldn't say [I felt rushed] at all," Thompson said after the Sabres' morning skate Tuesday. "If he didn't get hurt, I still feel like today would have been a good timeline for me. Obviously, I had a schedule [in mind], but it feels good. There's been no issues. And obviously I got cleared medically, so it's just up to me now [to play]."

Buffalo's top center has six goals and 12 points in 16 games through what's been a rough early start to the Sabres' season, a start in which they have failed -- so far -- to take the predicted steps toward being playoff contenders. Heading into Tuesday's game, Buffalo is second-to-last in the Atlantic Division with a 10-13-2 record.

A healthy Thompson hopes to help get the Sabres on track.

"It just comes down to compete and will and just lining up from the guy across from you and enforcing your will on him," Thompson said. "Are you going to let them win the battle? And I think obviously from watching, the consistency of winning and losing battles is too big right now. And I think that's just got to be a mindset, when you hop over the boards, you're not letting that guy across from you take the puck from you or beat you in a battle. Those are just little things that add up over the course of the game and something I feel like maybe we've lost sight of a little bit."

Thompson stressed there is "no panic" in the Sabres room, though, when it comes to making improvements. And at least Buffalo won't be trying to stop its skid amid Kane's potential first game as a Red Wing.

Detroit signed the 35-year-old forward to a one-year free agent contract Nov. 29, nearly six months to the day since Kane had hip resurfacing surgery on June 1.

Kane, who is from Buffalo, participated in his first full practice with Detroit on Monday and made the trip to his hometown for Tuesday's action. Kane spent nearly an hour on the ice during the Red Wings' morning skate and said that his body "feels good" but that there are other factors to consider before he slots in for Detroit.

"It's just about the game speed," he said. "These guys are 25 games into the season. The intensity is ramped up, and everyone's kind of at the top of their game. I'm just trying to find that as quickly as possible. I don't doubt that it might take a little bit, but I'm trying to get there as fast as I can."

Kane is a three-time Stanley Cup champion from his nearly 16-year tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks, which ended last season when he was traded to the New York Rangers. The winger has amassed 451 goals and 1237 points to date and remains confident that even post-surgery he can be a top-end player again for the Red Wings.

"I try not to put too much pressure on myself," he said. "Throughout my career, I've always been a guy that's been counted on, whether it's to score goals for the team or provide offense or be good in pressure moments and in the biggest moments of the game. I'm trying to have fun with that a little bit more and just build myself back up as we go along."

The next possible date for Kane to make his debut will be Thursday at home against San Jose, or even Saturday against Ottawa. Regardless of when, though, Detroit coach Derek Lalonde emphasized the importance of managing Kane properly from the get-go to ensure he can eventually find that championship-winning form again.

"We'll try to put him in a position to be successful," Lalonde said. "We'll be smart about minutes, and we'll also be smart about who we're playing with him and that it's an opportunity to succeed. I think we're all curious about how it's going to look. I think that's part of my excitement with all this is that, bottom line, he still bet on himself to come to Detroit on the term he did for one year, and I'm really impressed with him."