Derek Roy admits it's a long shot -- but that's infinitely better than no shot.
The Buffalo Sabres center was thought to be lost for the season in December when he needed surgery to repair a torn quad tendon. He is rapidly improving, however, and hopes to be on the ice again this spring.
"It's a long shot, but I'm trying to get ready for the playoffs," Roy told The Buffalo News this week. "It's something to shoot for. Probably second round would be the best-case scenario."
Roy attended Tuesday's game against Carolina and was walking fine. He needed crutches following the surgery and then dropped to a cane, but he is now strolling unaided. Coach Lindy Ruff said the center could be back by mid-May if the Sabres are still playing.
"Every day I'm trying to make it better," Roy said. "I'm working with some people who know what they're doing. I go to see the doc in the next couple weeks. We'll see if he clears me to do stronger activity, and then we'll see what happens."
Roy was the Sabres' leading scorer when he got hurt Dec. 23 versus Florida. He has 10 goals and 35 points in 35 games.
"I'm just working on things three times a week, and coming in here [to HSBC Arena] and doing some upper-body stuff," Roy said. "I'm feeling pretty good. A little more every day, you start feeling better, so it's a good sign."
One of the two greatest players in Sabres history will help the team start its game against Atlanta tonight. Goaltender Dominik Hasek will conduct the ceremonial faceoff. He is a guest of the Sabres for the first time since engineering a trade out of Buffalo in 2001.
"It'll be great to see Dom back in Buffalo," Ruff said.
Hasek was scheduled to arrive in town Friday. His Hasek's Heroes program is working with Willie O'Ree, the NHL's first black player, on a clinic this weekend for 45 boys and girls from around North America.
This is the third year of the event, and O'Ree and the youth players attended the Sabres' practice Friday in Northtown Center in Amherst. They will be at tonight's game.
"I'm excited about being here and being part of the program and watching the kids perform their skills on the ice," O'Ree said. "A lot of these boys and girls have never been on a plane before. Some of them have never been out of their own city to play hockey. Coming here and being on the ice, it's going to be a weekend that they'll never forget.
"With the Sabres being a big part of it, these kids are going to go back to their hometowns and tell their friends about the wonderful weekend they had in Buffalo."
Forward Jochen Hecht will miss his second straight game and sixth in the last eight with an upper-body injury. He skipped Friday's practice along with right wing Patrick Kaleta (leg), who will miss his sixth in a row.
The Sabres are tied for eighth place with Carolina following the Hurricanes' overtime victory over the New York Islanders on Friday. Carolina has played two more games than Buffalo.
The Sabres have a four-point lead over Atlanta despite playing one fewer game. Buffalo has 12 games remaining.
"We control our destiny," defenseman Jordan Leopold said. "We've got to be able to get the points when they're there. I know there were a couple in the last week that got away from us, and we're a little bit disappointed with that.
"We've put ourselves in a good position, and now we've got to finish strong the rest of the season to keep ourselves in the playoffs."