VANCOUVER – There’s still a chance that Manny Malhotra will play in the Stanley Cup final after the Vancouver Canucks centre practised with the team Friday.
Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis says Malhotra’s status is “day-to-day” and he remains “a question mark” for Saturday night’s Game 2 against the Boston Bruins.
Malhotra couldn’t be any more specific on his status.
“I wish I could put it into a percentage for you, but it’s going to be day-to-day,” said the Mississauga, Ont., native who has been out of the lineup since suffering a serious eye injury on March 16.
“I will see how I feel after the morning skate. We’ll make a decision at that point.”
Malhotra skated with energy on the ice and didn’t shy away from contact. He was composed when talking to the media, but his injured eye looked more closed than it had earlier in the week.
Defenceman Dan Hamhuis did not practise with the Canucks and is also listed as day-to-day.
Hamhuis limped off the ice in the second period of Vancouver’s 1-0 victory over the Bruins in Game 1 on Wednesday.
He appeared to suffer a lower body injury either when he sent Boston’s Milan Lucic flying helmet-over-skates with a hip check, or when David Krejci cross-checked him in retaliation.
Malhotra’s status with the Canucks has played out like a soap opera. His season appeared to be over when he was hit in the left eye by a deflected puck during a game against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Canucks announced March 21 he was lost for the season.
The 30-year-old has undergone several surgeries, but was back skating with the team May 12.
On Saturday, coach Alain Vigneault said Malhotra had “officially been cleared to play,” while the veteran centre said playing against the Bruins was a possibility.
He practised with the Canucks on Monday, but then didn’t skate Tuesday. Malhotra didn’t play in Game 1 and also missed Thursday’s optional practise.
He wasn’t offering any explanations on Friday.
“From one day to the next things had changed,” he said. “It didn’t feel proper to go on the ice. I took a couple of days off.”
Gillis says there were no hard plans for Malhotra to play in Game 1.
“We were still thinking about that,” he said. “We have said all along we are going to be as patient as we possibly can with Manny.
“There will be no risk to him before he steps on the ice in a NHL game. If we feel at any point, that for what ever reason … if we don’t feel comfortable, he’s not playing.”
Gillis denied rumours that Malhotra suffered a major setback or needed emergency surgery.
“He’s had multiple, little small procedures through this entire time,” Gillis said. “They are common place.
“Lots of people who have had an injury that at all resembles his … goes through these.”
Malhotra, a former first-round draft pick of the New York Rangers, signed a US$7.5-million, three-year contract as a free agent last summer with the Canucks.
He centred Vancouver’s third line of Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen, a shutdown unit put on the ice to protect leads. Malhotra also killed penalties and usually took important defensive zone faceoffs.
He had 11 goals and 19 assists in 72 games in 2010-11 and was second in the NHL with a 61.7 per cent faceoff percentage when he was hurt.
Vigneault hinted Malhotra’s role would be limited, if he played.
“If Manny does play, obviously he’s one of the best faceoff guys in the league,” Vigneault said.
“So he would be used a little bit more in our end, without doubt.”