This has been the question that has been on the minds and in the mouths of Sabres fans ever since his incident with Johnny Boychuk. Vanek has missed the last three games, but with the Sabres facing another elimination game in Boston on Monday night, the question now should the Sabres play a Vanek that is clearly not at 100 percent?
The Case For Vanek
The case for Vanek playing in a limited role in this game is fairly simple. The Sabres offense needs all of the help they can get with both Tim Connolly and Derek Roy still held off the scoresheet in this series. The need for offense is there when Jason Pominville and Mike Grier are the team's leading goal scorers with two goals a piece. In Game Five, Drew Stafford played a total of nine minutes, including a handful on the power play. If Vanek were to play, he would be playing the same amount of time on the ice and also play those handful of minutes on the power play. Most Sabres fans would rather have Vanek on the power play and playing those few minutes than Drew Stafford.
Point two is that this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Sabres are one game away from elimination. True leaders avoid injuries and put their bodies on the line when their teams are back against the wall in these situations. Good players become local heroes during these situations and if Vanek is to enjoy the final four years on his current contract, the consideration of playing in this game should be there.
The Case Against Vanek
Exactly how effective is Vanek going to be if he is playing at 75%. From media reports, we know that Vanek seems to have less issues skating in straight lines but still has issues stopping and turning on a dime. If Vanek is going to play in Game Six, is he going to be more of a defensive liability because he can't move as effectively as he normally can.
As I said above, players play injured all the time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but could there be a long term situation if Vanek reaggravated the injury or makes it worse, it could have a greater effect if the team moves forward in the playoffs or possibly next season.
Whatever the decision will be, we know that it will be made shortly before the game starts. If Vanek does start, it may give the team enough of a jump to give them an edge against a Boston team that has been very strong at home during this season. When your playoff lives are on the line, any little bit helps. We want to hear your thoughts in the poll below on whether Vanek should play at not 100%