Head Coach Lindy Ruff revealed that after five days of skating “all indications point to where he’s playing” in Game 6 on Monday night.
Vanek hasn’t been in the lineup since suffering a lower body injury in Game 2 against the Boston Bruins, after taking a slash from Johnny Boychuk and slamming into the end boards.
“There’s only one person who knows how he feels and that’s Thomas,” Ruff said. “The player has to say I feel good on the ice; I can go all out, I can sprint I can stop… the only decision I can make is whether I think his conditioning is enough to get him through a game and I think it will be. He indicated yesterday that he felt that he was ready to play.”
While Ruff is ready to test the recovering winger, he warned that it could be in a limited role, depending on how Vanek feels throughout the game.
“I said to him that he has to go all in, it’s all in right off the bat,” Ruff said. “That doesn’t mean he can make it through the game or not make it through the game, I don’t know… This isn’t a game you can ease into, it’s all in right from the start. We’ll see where he is after the first period or even after the first shift and we’ll see how he’s doing.”
Vanek, a two-time 40-goal scorer, had been one of the hottest players in the League before his injury. He scored four goals against Ottawa in the next-to-last game of the regular season on April 10, then added the Sabres' only goal in New Jersey the following day.
“I know this is a little bit of a setback for him, but he was really going well before he got hurt,” Ruff said. “He’s a big part of the offense, a big part of our power play and probably one of the best net-front guys in the League.”