Told three months ago that his season was done, the 25-year-old Buffalo Sabres forward is on the verge of capping a spirited comeback and might be in the lineup Friday night for Game 5 of his team's Eastern Conference semifinal series with the New York Rangers.
"He's been that determined to work that hard when someone told him months ago, 'It's probably your season.' He's been such a character guy," Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said Thursday.
Gaustad refused to give up on his season even if everyone else had.
"It was devastating when I found out that I couldn't play for the rest of the season," Gaustad said after practice. "I just tried to get back as soon as possible. Every day's been a little more exciting for me. And right now, skating with the team, it's been a lot of fun and I'm just looking forward to a game."
Gaustad had a doctor's appointment later Thursday that would determine whether or not he would be cleared. Gaustad has been out since severing a tendon above his left ankle Feb. 7. He's missed 35 games including the playoffs.
"It's one of those injuries that no one really knows (how long)," said Gaustad. "The healing process is just patience and every person is different. I did everything possible to get back as quick as I can."
If he gets medical clearance, he's in, Ruff said.
"I don't think it'll be a difficult decision," said Ruff. "He's worked extremely hard, he's been a part of this team and if he gets cleared to play and I don't put him in, he'll bust down my office door. It'll be that simple."