VANCOUVER -- Ryan Kesler can't imagine a worse injury to try to play through. Shane O'Brien wanted to cross his legs as he spoke about it.
Canucks defenseman Sami Salo is a game-time decision for Game 6 Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) at GM Place against Chicago after taking a shot off the, well, most delicate area on the male body late in the first period of Game 5 two nights ago. He had to be taken to a Chicago-area hospital via ambulance, and it originally was reported that he had suffered a ruptured testicle, two words that should never be used in hockey -- or really anywhere else in life.
However, Salo was on the ice with the Canucks for their pre-game skate Tuesday morning, and despite skating gingerly, there's a chance he could play in the must-win Game 6. Chicago leads the best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinal series, three games to two.
"Yeah, he took it pretty hard last game, and if he can go he's a warrior," Kesler said. "He's battled through a lot of injuries throughout his career, but he's a warrior, man."
The mere sight of Salo, who was not made available to the media, on the ice at the morning skate served as motivation to the Canucks, who know they have to play better at home in Game 6 than they did in Games 3 and 4, when they were outscored, 12-6, and lost their composure.
"Obviously no one would say anything if he didn't even skate today and took a couple days off or a week off, but Sami has been here a long time and he wants to win," O'Brien said. "Only he knows how much it hurts, and if he can go, he'll go."
The Blackhawks don't know what to expect, but Adam Burish said that if Salo can go, that he would have to bump up against him and hope that maybe some of the toughness would rub off on him.
O'Brien, though, doesn't know if anyone should believe Burish, a player he called, "that rat." He wouldn't be surprised if Burish was the guy that tries to hit Salo where it hurts.
"He might do it," O'Brien said. "I wouldn't trust that guy for a second. That would be Burish's first hit of the series if he rubbed up against him."
O'Brien at least can hold out hope that the Hawks don't think about hitting Salo where the sun doesn't shine. Enough damage has already been done.
"That's gutless if they did that. That's guy code, isn't it?" O'Brien said. "Stanley Cup is the best thing to win in the world, but I think you draw the line there. Stitches are fine and cuts and this and that, but if you're going to go after a guy that has a little problem down below, you have to take a look in the mirror and realize … I don't even know what to say."
All that aside, if Salo is healthy enough to play even close to his usual 22 minutes a night for the Canucks in Game 6, it would give them a huge lift. The drop-off from Salo to the next healthy defenseman on the depth chart, AHL regular Lawrence Nycholat, is significant.
Salo is a 12-year veteran who plays big minutes in all phases.
"You've got to play through things and he's going to help us big time if he can play because he's one of our top guys back there," Henrik Sedin said. "He's had some fluke injuries. I mean, he's a tough player, mentally and physically. Over the years he may not have been able to show that because he's had some tough luck, but he's as tough as it gets."
Should Salo play in Game 6, all the Canucks agree that it would be the definition of toughness.
"Seeing Sami out there shows you what we're playing for," O'Brien said. "That's some serious pain."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl