So what? Vanek is a hockey player and these are the NHL playoffs. Damaged ankle and all, he will return to the Sabres' lineup for Game 6 Monday night at the TD Garden.
"All indications are that he can play," Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff said as his team took part in an optional morning skate. The Sabres trail Boston 3-2 and face elimination on opposition ice.
Vanek has been out since the first period of Game 2 when he suffered an ankle injury as a result of a hit from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk. For the last few days, Ruff has made it clear that the decision on Vanek's return is up to the player.
"There's only one person who knows how he feels, and that's Thomas," Ruff said in his game-day media briefing. "He's the only one who can tell me that he can play." The coach compared the situation to a groin injury, saying there isn't much more a doctor can treat or analyze.
Vanek led Buffalo with 28 goals in the regular season and had a goal and an assist in his four periods of postseason play before the injury.
"Thomas was really going well for us before he got hurt," Ruff said. "He's one of the best net-front players in the game."
If he plays -- when he plays -- Vanek will not go gently into the lineup, according to Ruff.
"I said to him, 'You gotta go all in,'" the coach said. "You don't ease into this game."
Vanek will play on one of Buffalo's top two lines. He will be on the power play. If the Sabres are trailing and Ruff needs to shorten his bench in the third period, Vanek could play as much as every other shift. The only thing he won't do on Monday is speak with the media.
A Sabres public relations official said Vanek will not be available until after the game. His teammates, however, were delighted to know they're getting their leading scorer back.
"It's a big lift for us," veteran wing Mike Grier said. "Especially on the power play."
Added Vezina Trophy-nominated goaltender Ryan Miller: "It's been very tough for Thomas to have to watch the games. He was getting around the rink today strong, and he looked good. It's great to have him back."
Boston center Marc Savard, out with a Grade 2 concussion since March 7, practiced with contact with the team for the first time on Sunday. As of early Monday afternoon, his possible return to the lineup for Game 6 was being held in secret.
"I have no confirmation right now," is all Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say.
Savard, who was scheduled to undergo a second neuro-psych test, has said he feels strong enough to play. If the Bruins decide to hold him out for one more game -- the most likely and wisest decision -- Savard could return if a Game 7 is needed on Wednesday in Buffalo.
Julien insisted his game plan would not change if Vanek returns for Buffalo.
Julien on whether this game, at home with his team leading the series 3-2, is do-or-die: "I would have hoped that we had that attitude in the last game (a 4-1 loss in Buffalo). For two periods, we didn't have the same intensity that we had the whole series. We came out in the third period and played hard, but the damage was done. We can't expect to come back from deficits every night and expect the same results. We need to be ready from the get-go."
The Sabres have scored the first goal in each of the five games in the series...
Despite winning Game 4, Ryan Miller liked having two days between Games 5 and 6. "This time of year, you'lll take any rest you can get," Miller said. "The time off may have been the difference in getting Thomas (Vanek) back. We won the last game, so we had the break with good feelings. We're in a good frame of mind and we're ready to go."
Bruins bruiser Milan Lucic believes the rest of the series will not be about breakout offensive performances or fancy plays. "At this point," Lucic said, "it's will over skill."