Thomas Vanek's status for the sixth game of the Buffalo Sabres' playoff series against the Boston Bruins on Monday night remains up in the air.
The Sabres' best forward, out since Game 2 of the NHL series with a sprained his left ankle, said after Sunday's practice that he wanted to play the last two games. Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said the decision is up to the player, although it appeared that Ruff talked Vanek out of playing in those two games.
"He wanted to play the last two?" Ruff said when Vanek's sentiments were relayed to him. "What's that, Game 6 and Game 7? I think he wanted to play all of them to tell you the truth. The reality of it is he wasn't ready. He's close now. It's his decision whether he can play or not."
However, Ruff added, that decision has to be whether or not Vanek thinks he can be an effective player in a high-tempo playoff series, not whether or not he can take a few twirls around the ice.
"In conversations with him, I think he understood that he didn't think he would be able to make a difference," Ruff said. "He wanted to play but he might have been putting himself in a bad spot.
"There's a health issue. He has to be ready to be effective. You have to be able to skate and battle. Not until [Sunday]has he been involved in any 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 will play. I've told him that.
If he knocks on my door [Monday]and says he's ready, he's playing."
When Vanek was pressed on whether he feels ready to play Monday night, with his team behind 3-2 in the best-of-seven series and still facing elimination, he waffled slightly.
"I never said I can't play," Vanek said. "I wanted to play the last two but obviously we talked. We have to be realistic about it.
"If we both feel like I really can't help the team there's no point in going and taking a spot away from somebody else."
Ruff implied the decision will likely be made shortly before game time on Monday.
On the Bruins' side of the ledger, center Marc Savard continues to skate as he progresses from the serious concussion he suffered late in the season. There may be some hope he could play Wednesday if the series goes to a seventh and deciding game but he is not expected to play Monday.