Bieksa goes for conditioning

ADAM WAZNY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The rumours had been flying and when all the speculation settled, Kevin Bieksa eventually found himself back with the Manitoba Moose for a conditioning stint.

Last night marked his first action in just under four months. There was a buzz at the rink.

Naturally, he was late for the morning skate.

"He kinda snuck up on me there," a surprised Moose coach Scott Arniel said, referring to how the talented defenceman joined a light walk through which was already in progress at Allstate Arena. A flight delay from Minneapolis was the excuse the former Moose (2004-06) had in his back pocket.

The 26-year-old was injured in a Nov. 1 game against Nashville, when Predators forward Vern Fiddler's skate lacerated his right calf. At the time, the original hope was that Bieksa would only miss eight weeks with the injury but the cut was deeper than thought.

Bieksa wasn't sure of his status after Manitoba's 2-1 overtime victory over the Chicago Wolves last night but the team confirmed he will be going back to Vancouver today. The Canucks play in Nashville tonight.

Bieksa showed why he's such a big part of the Canucks future with his cool robust style. He mixed right into the action, starting the game on the point and making a point to get involved -- as evidenced by the way he hammered former Moose Jesse Schultz twice to the ice before the game was two minutes old.

The Grimsby, Ont. product took a regular shift, killed penalties and spent significant time on the power play. Bieksa took a minor penalty and counted an assist on Pierre-Cedric Labrie's second period goal.

"I don't dictate my ice," Bieksa laughed when asked if he got to take a shift when he felt like it. "I don't give the nod when I want to go out. He played me quite a bit, I was happy with that. I was a little tired at the end of the shifts, but I feel OK right now."

Having a skill-player like Bieksa on the bench -- even if it was just for a game -- was welcome by the Moose. In a season loaded with players going up to Vancouver, having a night to enjoy some help the other way was a nice change of pace. It also gave the young Moose players an up close and personal look at what an NHL regular looks like.

Don't think for a second a few of the rookies weren't sneaking a peek over at Bieksa as he prepared to take the ice.

"Seeing a guy of that skill will show some young guys what it takes to play (in the NHL) every day," Arniel said. "When he does some of the things on the ice, I'm sure guys will be watching."


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