VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks are ready to insert their Selke Trophy winner back in the lineup.
Ryan Kesler pronounced himself fit for Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers after participating in practice on Monday. He sat out the first five games of the season following hip surgery over the summer.
“He came to see me this morning, said he was 100 per cent ready to go,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “He assured me that the injury was behind him, we weren’t going to see him limping and we weren’t going to see (any) pain faces.
“The only thing, obviously since he didn’t have a training camp, on the ice it’s going to take a little bit of time. But his injury is fine and he’s ready to go.”
Kesler suffered the injury during Game 5 of the Western Conference final in the spring. He played through pain during the Stanley Cup final but was forced to have surgery in July.
The 27-year-old missed 10 weeks with a similar injury in 2007, but still found this layoff frustrating. He’s been practising for two weeks and joined his teammates during their recent four-game road trip.
“It definitely wasn’t easier,” Kesler said of the recovery. “It took about four more weeks to recover (than 2007) and it’s been a tough go seeing the team playing and things like that. It’s in the past now and there’s positive times ahead.”
During Monday’s practice, Kesler skated in his normal position on the second line between Chris Higgins and Cody Hodgson. He’s also expected to rejoin the team’s top power-play unit with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
“I talked with our trainer and coach and I told them I don’t want to limp into the lineup,” said Kesler. “I expect big things from myself and obviously I want my minutes, but I have to earn them.”
Kesler and Higgins played together on the same line during the playoffs after Mikael Samuelsson went down with a sports hernia injury. Kesler expects them to have chemistry as a result.
“Obviously both good American kids,” said the native of Livonia, Mich. “We read off each other well, we play the same style and he’s good in the corners, good in front of the net and I like playing with him.”
Hodgson is adjusting to the wing. Drafted as a centre, he spent some time on the wing with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose last season.
But there’s still learning to do.
“You’re always watching in practice with the drills and stuff what the wingers have to do in case you get put on the wing,” said Hodgson.
The Canucks open a three-game homestand with Tuesday’s game against the Rangers.
It appears Marco Sturm will be forced out of the lineup by Kesler’s return. He was signed as a free agent over the summer but has just two shots on goal and is a minus-4 through five games.
“I’ve been through it before and I’ve got to do it again,” said Sturm. “I was not happy either about the start I had, but it’s nothing I can change right now. I’ve got to do it day-by-day, work harder and get back at it.”
Added Vigneault: “We’re working with Marco. His attitude and his effort are great, he wants to do well. It hasn’t gone to the way he obviously expected and the way we expected as far as his performance on the ice, but we’re working with him and hopefully everything will come together.”
On Monday, the Canucks assigned defenceman Chris Tanev to their AHL affiliate in Chicago. He was a healthy scratch for two games on Vancouver’s recent road swing.
“We just want the young man to play hockey and we thought that so far this year he had done well, but right now he was still fighting for one of those (five through eight) spots on our team,” said Vigneault. “We felt with him being as young as he is, with the upside that he has, he needed to go and play so we just sent him to Chicago.”
Note: The Canucks will honour Rick Rypein, who passed away in the summer, during a pre-game ceremony on Tuesday.