When Derek Roy went out of the Buffalo Sabres' lineup Dec. 23, he was their leading scorer, with 35 points in 35 games.
The torn left quadriceps muscle has sidelined him since then, but he's been on the ice and the possibility remains he could return the lineup at some point during the Sabres' Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Roy was on the ice for Thursday's optional skate, and while he hasn't been cleared for practice, he continues to ramp up his on-ice activities.
"We're just working on the power, just trying to get power back in the leg, and trying to get my first quick steps in," Roy told reporters. "I think that's the hardest part, coming out of turns and fighting off opponents and whatnot, so I'm going to have to work on that."
It's been believed that the only way Roy would return to the lineup would be if the Sabres at least got to the second round of the playoffs, but the timetable could be speeding up.
Getting Roy back would add to an offense that hasn't produced much in the first four games against the Flyers. They've scored eight goals, but just one each in Games 1 and 4, which they won thanks to shutout performances by goalie Ryan Miller.
The Sabres' big offensive players haven't performed at a high level in the series. Thomas Vanek had a pair of power-play goals in Game 2 but hasn't scored at even strength. Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville, Brad Boyes, Tyler Ennis and Tim Connolly have combined for just 2 goals and 6 assists in the series; Boyes has yet to produce a point. The Sabres also are just 3-for-19 on the power play, including the final 4:57 of a five-minute major to start the third period of Game 4 that had been assessed to Flyers captain Mike Richards in the final seconds of the second.
"We can talk about Boyes hitting the goal post, another missed opportunity," coach Lindy Ruff said following his team's optional skate in Buffalo. "You talk about those plays, those are difference-makers. When it comes to the power play, it had some bad passing, bad decisions, where I think that part of the game got away from us, too, a little bit. But those are the guys that have to make a difference. Coaches can't skate out there and say, 'Pass it five feet ahead of the guy instead of five feet behind him.' We had some tough passes. We had some tough decisions. We looked pretty bad on that five-minute major."
Roy's return wouldn't solve all those ills, but it never hurts to add another offensive performer, especially one that scored at a point-per-game pace.
After Friday's skate Roy said the only thing he can't do at this point is take contact.
"No hitting yet," he said. "Doc's orders until four months. Just have to work on the fundamentals of getting my knee back and then figure out how to hit."
The four-month anniversary of his injury would be Saturday, the day off between Games 5 and 6. So is there a chance Roy could return in this series?
"I don't know. It's day by day, and we're just going to take it one day at a time," said Roy. "The boys did it all season long (without him) and I'm rooting for them right now."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK