Vanek questionable, but unlikely to play

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knows his team is one loss away from ending its season and needs a win here in Game 5 in order to extend this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Ruff said he’s not going to make any big speeches, but he’s doing his best Houdini impression. When asked if Thomas Vanek (lower-body injury) would be in the lineup tonight, Ruff didn’t want to give too much away. A reporter made a comment, saying, “So Vanek’s out tonight?”

“I think so, yeah,” said Ruff. “It might be an illusion, though.”

Vanek, the team’s top goal scorer during the regular season, injured his left leg when he went crashing into the boards in Game 2. The Sabres haven’t been the same since Vanek’s exit.

“It’s getting closer,” admitted Ruff. “Yesterday was a pretty sore day for him. It’s encouraging and I think we’re getting closer.”

“If he felt he could play, he’d be in the lineup,” added Ruff. “We have one game to stay alive and the conversation with him, he didn’t think he was at that point yet.”

If he were playing, would it make a difference?

“That’s a tough question to answer,” said Ruff. “He was playing well for us. We can guess we’d be better, but other players need to step up.”