Sabres winger Thomas Vanek remains questionable for Monday's Game 6 of his team's series against the Bruins. And according to The Buffalo News, the decision on whether or not Vanek is in uniform will come down to Vanek himself.
"He knocks on my door [Monday] and says 'I'm ready,' he's playing," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Sunday.
And that's not wholly out of the question, according to the paper. Vanek's ankle — which was injured early in Game 2 of the series when he was taken down on a near-breakaway by Johnny Boychuk – has been improving every day.
Vanek even practiced on the power play on Sunday, but according to reports, he looked far from comfortable on the ice.
"Vanek skates in a straight line just fine," writes The Buffalo News' John Vogl, "but his cutting and shooting ability are still off. A few seconds ago, he bumped into the end boards rather than stop with his left foot [and injured ankle]. It would take major healing overnight to play in Game 6 on Monday in Boston."
Still, the 26-year-old Vanek, who has been the Sabres' leading goal-scorer in each of the last four seasons, feels that he could contribute, even if it's in a diminished role.
"That's the thing," Vanek said Sunday. "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," he continued. "I wanted to play the last two [games], but obviously we talked and we have to be realistic about it. If [Ruff] 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."
Ruff put the final decision back in Vanek's court, though.
"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 [Saturday] and a little bit [Sunday] 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."