David Booth is back and the American Express line is together again in Vancouver.
Just don't expect them to come "charging" out of the gates.
Booth, out since Dec. 6 after a knee-on-knee hit that sprained his MCL and led to a four-game suspension for Colorado's Kevin Porter, talked cautiously about jumping back onto a line with fellow Americans Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. The speedy trio combined for two key goals and eight points in their last full game together, and had been showing promising signs even before then, but Booth has now been out almost exactly as long as he's been with the Canucks.
"It is a little bit (like starting over)," said Booth, who was acquired in a trade with Florida on Oct. 22, and didn't find his groove in Vancouver until shortly before getting hurt.
After failing to score and recording just three assists his first 12 games of the season, including six with Florida before the trade, Booth recorded five goals and 10 points in his last 12 full games, and three goals and five points the last five, before getting hurt.
"It's always tough when you miss five, six weeks, so the best thing to do is kind of keep it simple at the start and not try to do too much," Booth said after Sunday's skate. "I'm playing with good players so if I just keep my game simple they'll help out a lot."
Head coach Alain Vigneault is hoping it works both ways. Higgins is pointless in six games since returning from a blood infection, and was dropped to the third line.
"Chris since coming back from the second infection, and Ryan the last couple of games, have not been as good as we all know they can be so maybe by putting them all together tonight can lead them to the right path," Vigneault said. "Obviously we all saw some real positive things when those three were together and we'll start that way tonight."
The positives typically included Booth using his speed effectively and going hard to the net. The latter is how he got hurt, and the former is the reason he waited a week after receiving medical clearance to return before pronouncing himself game ready.
"Skating is the number one part of my game so that's why I felt I just couldn't rush back," Booth said. "I gotta use my speed, and play the body and get to the net. … Reacting to game speeds is always different than practice. That will take time but I feel like the knee can handle that now. Before I really don't think it was ready."