Vanek

BOSTON — Buffalo winger Thomas Vanek joked that he scored the game-winner in a little game of shinny with Buffalo’s other scratched players this morning at TD Garden at the end of an optional morning skate.

Whether he’ll have the opportunity to score a much bigger goal tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Bruins will be determined just before the puck drops at 7 p.m.

Head coach Lindy Ruff declared Vanek, out with a lower-body injury since the first period of Game 2, to be a game-time decision. Vanek reiterated that fact after coming off the ice.

“My gut wanted to play Monday. But like I said, it’s not about just playing, it’s about helping your teammates out,” he said. “You don’t want to just go out there to be out there and disappoint them. That’s the whole thing.”

Should Vanek not play in Game 4, the chances of him returning for Game 5 Friday are now much better.

“I’m real encouraged,” he said. “I was really happy out there, I felt good and I’m hoping for tonight. If not, take a step again tomorrow and then maybe be back Friday.”