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Mason Raymond returns to Canucks' lineup after frightening back injury

VANCOUVER - Mason Raymond returns to the Vancouver Canucks lineup Thursday night against Nashville after a career-threatening injury knocked him out of the Stanley Cup final.

He suffered a frightening vertebrae compression fracture when knocked backwards into the corner boards by Johnny Boychuck of the Boston Bruins.

No penalty was called on the Game 6 hit which forced Raymond to wear a corset to stabilize his back.

"Of course it's scary," Raymond said Wednesday after practising with Cody Hodgson and Jannick Hansen on the Canucks' third line.

"My life, your hockey life flashes before your eyes. . . if you're going to be playing again. You don't realize what you use every day. . . the use of your hands. . . until maybe something like that happens. You get a different outlook on life."

Raymond had 15 goals and 39 points in 70 games last season after a breakthrough 25-goal campaign in 2009-10 earned him a two-year US$5 million deal.

After his injury on June 13, Raymond was virtually immobile for two months.

"I've come a long ways," said Raymond. "You go from lying in bed for a week, not even moving, to a brace for a few months. I didn't move off my back for quite a while.

"It's been a long process. I'm blessed to be back here playing the game that I love so I'm very thankful for it."

The six-foot, 185-pound Raymond is still trying to regain all of the 10 pounds he lost during his rehabilitation.

"Everybody knows about his speed, his great shot and his smarts so he's real fun to play with," Hodgson said of his new winger.

Raymond battled a sore hand and broken thumb but was among coach Alain Vigneault's top-six forwards for most of last season.

"You can notice him when he's on top of his game with that speed and skill set," Vigneault said. "We're happy he was able to come back this year and contribute. That was a real serious injury."

"You never know how those things are going to unfold."

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