February 3, 2013
Canucks' Ryan Kesler makes a super recovery
By HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - It was rather fitting that Ryan Kesler was briefly given a cape to wear on Super Sunday.
At least that was what defenceman Kevin Bieksa intended when he jokingly draped a towel with the No. 17 on the back of the Vancouver Canucks star forward as he led stretches to start practice.
Skating a full session with the team for the first time this season, the player dubbed "Super Kes" is on the right track to returning. While he said there's no timeline yet for when he'll be back in the lineup, Kesler was excited to be on the ice again with his teammates Sunday.
"It's been an extremely long, hard road for me and it felt good to be back out there," he said. "I still got a fair bit of way to go."
The 28-year-old had off-season shoulder and wrist surgeries, forcing him to miss the start of the shortened season. For the most part, he's been skating on his own and working with trainers.
"I had to be patient," the second-line centre said. "That was my biggest thing — I had to keep telling myself baby steps.”
Less than a month ago at the University of B.C., Kesler told a small contingent of media that he still hadn't regained a full range of motion in his shoulder. It raised concerns as to when he would be able to return. But the Michigan native is now able to participate in full at practice, according to coach Alain Vigneault, and it's a matter of working on his strength and timing on the ice.
"It's going to come in time," said Kesler, who had 49 points in 77 games last season. "I felt comfortable enough. They left it up to me to give them the A-OK and I felt good enough to be out there today."
As the Canucks — winners of two straight — prepare to head into Edmonton to face the Oilers Monday, Kesler will also make the trip — mostly so he can practise with the team during their short stretch away from home.
"I've been watching him for the last month here, skating on the ice and what he's doing, he looks real good," Vigneault said. "He's probably in better shape than most of the guys when they arrived here (at the start of the season). He's been pushing himself real hard."
David Booth also skated prior to practice but did not join the team. The forward suffered a groin injury at training camp and, at the time, was expected to be out four to six weeks. There's no update on his return.
In their absence, the Canucks have averaged 2.38 goals per game (19th in the NHL) and their power play ranks 17th with a 17.1% efficiency rating.
As for that makeshift cape, Bieksa isn't taking any credit for it.
"I was just the messenger," he said with a laugh, adding it was the trainers' idea. "They have been spending the most time with him, unfortunately for them. They've gotten the brunt of his frustration I'm sure. It was all in good fun."
LUONGO GETS CALL AGAINST OILERS
For the fourth-straight game, goaltender Roberto Luongo will get the start for the Canucks.
Having allowed just one goal in his last two starts — both wins — the team is running with the hot goalie. Then again, Vigneault wouldn't give a reason for his decision, instead miming the flipping of a coin.
"Coin. Lui. Simple," he said, with a chuckle.
When asked if Luongo was heads or tails, he added, "I think he was both."
Cory Schneider has not started since Jan. 27 in a loss to the San Jose Sharks and depending what happens against the Oilers, who have lost two straight, he could finally see action Thursday in Minnesota.
"It's a game-to-game basis and they're both quality people and they both do what's best for the team," Vigneault said.