At some point Monday, after Thomas Vanek tests his injured left ankle yet again, the Buffalo Sabres' left winger will limp over to the coach's office for a chat with Lindy Ruff.
"He knocks on my door tomorrow and says 'I’m ready,' he’s playing," Ruff said today.
Vanek, by all accounts, continues to feel improvement in his ankle. Also by all accounts, he's far from healthy. He limps constantly and has trouble stopping, turning and shooting.
The discussion between the coach and player in Boston will be to determine if Vanek, even in a limited role, can help the Sabres beat the Bruins in Game Six to keep their season alive.
"That’s the thing," Vanek said in HSBC Arena. "Is it worth it to play those seven to nine minutes? Like I said, I feel like I can go, but we’ve got to be smart and realistic about it.
"I’ve never said I can’t play. I wanted to play the last two, but obviously we talked and we have to be realistic about it. If he doesn’t feel like or we both don’t feel like I can really help the team, then there’s no point in going and taking a spot away from somebody else."
To get Vanek prepared for a possible appearance Monday, Ruff used the winger in front of the net on a power-play unit. Vanek and Drew Stafford (who probably would come out should Vanek go in) split shifts alongside stalwarts Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis, Tyler Myers and Craig Rivet.
"He’s close now," Ruff said. "It’s his decision whether he can play or not. I don’t know how he feels. In conversations with him, I think he understood that he didn’t think he was going to be able to make a difference. You want to play, but the way he felt he might have been putting himself in a bad spot.
"There’s a health issue. He has to be ready to be effective. You’ve got to be able to skate. You’ve got to be able to battle. Not till yesterday and a little bit today has he even been involved in any type of physical confrontation where you have to push off and use the lower part of his leg the way it needs to be used.
"When he feels he can be effective, he’s going to play."
taggedNHL | Sabres