The Sabres and Minnesota Wild don't get together very much, as evidenced by the fact tonight's meeting in the XCel Energy Center (6, MSG, Radio 550 AM) is just Buffalo's sixth trip to St. Paul and first since Oct. 23, 2008.

But it's a huge deal to Sabres winger Thomas Vanek, the former University of Minnesota star who has loads of family and friends in the Twin Cities and still spends summer there. This will be just the third game of Vanek's NHL career in his adopted home.

"I've got quite a few people coming so it's exciting," said Vanek, who estimated his fans will number 40-50. "It's always good to go back and see the in-laws, see a lot of friends, see people I played with. I'm looking forward to it."

Vanek's wife, Ashley, is a Minnesota native and they were married in "The Land of 10,000 Lakes" in the summer of 2008. Ashley Vanek will not be at today's game because she is staying back in Buffalo to take care of their twin boys that were born in November to join 3-year-old Blake.

"She's busy back home with the boys so the tickets for Minnesota were my department," said a smiling Vanek. "It's still just too hard for her to travel. Too little."

Vanek was the first European-born player to play for the Golden Gophers and had a spectacular freshman season in 2002-03. He had 31 goals and 62 points in 45 regular-season games, and then dominated the Frozen Four at HSBC Arena to lead Minnesota to the national championship.