More on Kesler
Ryan Kesler is finally back at practice. His teammates good-natured ribbing of him is in playoff form, mind you.
Kesler took to the ice in a Vancouver Canucks’ full workout for the first time this season on Sunday. He led the opening stretch sequence, prompting both a rousing stick tapping from his teammates and Kevin Bieska to sneak up from behind him and drape a white cape with Kesler’s No. 17 on over his back.
When Bieksa was approached by a gaggle of media afterwards and the first question was regarding Kesler, there were chuckles from teammates nearby and a couple of “I told you so’s.”
Kesler, a member of the Canucks’ core group for the past few seasons, underwent surgery on his left shoulder on May 8 and on his left wrist on June 27.
“It was great to have him out there,” said Bieksa. “He was flying around out there.
“We haven’t seen him in awhile. He’s been on his own schedule, doing his rehab and his training. As a team, we haven’t seen him a whole lot. It was nice to get him out there, joking around a little bit.
“I can’t take credit for that [the cape]. I was just the messenger. That’s the trainers. The trainers have been spending the most time with him, unfortunately for them. They’ve gotten the brunt of his frustration.”
Bieksa followed that up with an “it was all in good fun.” The smiles, across Canuck Nation, will be much bigger, of course, when Kesler gets back up to speed and returns to a line-up that’s appeared challenged offensively to date.
He said that there was no timeline on his return, although he will be travelling with the team for the upcoming road trip, which sees them visit the Edmonton Oilers on Monday and the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
He said that he needed to work on his strength and timing and “feeling comfortable in one-on-one battles.”
“I had to be patient,” he said of returning to practice with the team. “That was my biggest thing. I had to keep telling myself ‘baby steps.’ It’s a process and you can’t get ahead of the process.
“I still have to be patient. There’s still a long way to go.”
Coach Alain Vigneault seemed more positive, saying that he thought Kesler had “an opportunity to come help us after a couple of practices.” He did add that coming on the road trip was part of that process, so it seems unlikely to see him play in Minnesota, let alone Edmonton.
Kesler did seem to have plenty of jump and didn’t appear to be holding back when shooting the puck.
He led Canuck forwards in average ice time last year during the regular season, at 20:05 per game.
“He’s probably in better shape than most of the guys when they arrived here, because he had been working with our conditioning guys throughout the lockout and he had been pushing himself,” Vigneault said.
“When he’s ready to play, he’s going to help us obviously. He wants to play. He wants to get out there and help his teammates. Hopefully, it’s real soon.”
And a little on Luongo getting the start and lines for good measure from the same article:
Kesler’s presence made Vancouver’s goalie saga a secondary topic for a change. Vigneault confirmed that Roberto Luongo was getting the start against the Edmonton, and joked that it was again based on a coin flip.
Asked if Cory Schneider would accept a back-up role moving forward, Vigneault said: “I think Cory is going to accept Lui is playing tomorrow and then after we’re going to move onto the next game and decide what’s best for the team. It’s on a game-to-game basis and they’re both quality people and they both do what’s best for the team.”
With Kesler skating, Vancouver had 14 forwards, which led to considerable line shuffling at drills. The two units that seemed to stick together for much of the workout though were the top line, with Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Zack Kassian, and a new trio featuring Jordan Schroeder between Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond.
Burrows, a natural winger, had been centring Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins as Vancouver’s de facto No. 2 line of late.
“I don’t know if that’s it,” Burrows said of the new combination. “It was news to me until practice today.
“They’re two fast guys who can generate some offence, if that’s the way the line-up is tomorrow.”
Burrows, Schroeder, Raymond, Kesler and David Booth took the ice with Luongo and Schneider for goalie specific work prior to the full session. Booth, who is out with a groin injury, didn’t skate with the team afterwards and Vigneault said there was no update on his status.