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Ballard set to make return

Friday, 04.13.2012 / 5:42 PM

By Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent / Canucks vs. Kings series blog

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Canucks vs. Kings series blog
Ballard set to make return
VANCOUVER -- With all the attention on leading scorer Daniel Sedin's attempts to return from a concussion, Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard has been able to fly slightly under the radar in his own recovery from a head injury.

Not anymore.

"I guess you get thrown in the fire and see how you do," Ballard said after taking the morning skate on Friday in preparation to play Game 2 against the Kings.

It's a big ask of Ballard, who hasn't played in more than two months since coming out of the lineup Feb. 7. He was shut down completely for several weeks during that time after experiencing dizziness and headaches -- and sometimes sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day. But he's been skating since mid-March, rejoined the team later in the month and feels he's as ready as he can be to return.

"I know it's going to be fast, it's going to be intense and I'm ready for that," Ballard said. "From my perspective I've done everything I could physically and mentally to prepare so I go from there. My legs feel great. My skating feels great. It's just a matter of putting it all together. It's not psyching yourself up, the building and the atmosphere and what's at stake gets you emotionally ready. It's the mental part that is a huge part of hit, getting your mindset right."

Ballard has battled the mental side since coming to the Canucks two summers ago. He never became the top-pair defenseman Vancouver touted when they traded Michael Grabner and a first-round pick to Florida as part of a five-player package to acquire him on the eve of the 2010 NHL Draft. But he remains a great skater, and after struggling to recover from offseason hip surgery and another concussion last season was playing well before getting hurt in February.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault hopes his ability to skate the puck out his own end pays off against a Kings forecheck that pinned them in the Vancouver zone several times.

"Skate and move the puck, make smart decisions and a bit of a physical side, that's the strength of my game so that's what I gave to do," Ballard said. "If I play to my capabilities, I definitely think I can make a positive impact."

Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares