VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- This time Ryan Kesler left no doubt he was back.
After being evasive and playing coy following his first full practice the day before, the Vancouver Canucks' Selke Trophy-winning center declared himself ready to return Friday night against the visiting Dallas Stars. Kesler hasn't played in almost 10 months after undergoing shoulder surgery in May then needing a wrist operation in June.
"I flipped AV's coin out there on the ice and it said I was, so I think I'll be playing," Kelser said, joking in reference to coach Alain Vigneault's ongoing gag about using a coin to choose his starting goalie. "It's been a long road, so for it to finally be here is pretty exciting."
Kesler, who has pushed to come back too soon from serious injuries and surgeries in the past, said the lockout made it easier to be patient, knowing he'll miss 12 games instead of 50.
"It wasn't a good situation, but for me it gave me the time I needed to recover without pressuring myself to come back," Kesler said. "I'm fully convinced this is not too early."
Kesler returned too soon from hip surgery last season and struggled early. Not long after finding his stride, he injured his shoulder and wrist. His goal total fell from 41 the year before to 22 last season, and he clearly wasn't the same player down the stretch and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he had three assists in five games.
"I don't think anybody likes being injured," Kesler said. "Just to practice when you are feeling 100 percent, it's fun again. You enjoy being out there and you enjoy doing what you love to do."
Here's how the rest of the lines will look as the Canucks get their second-line center, net-front power play presence, and top penalty killer back in the lineup and try to extend a six-game win streak against a Dallas team that had a four-game streak snapped by a 7-4 loss to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday:
Notes: Malhotra's gear was still hanging in the locker room a day after Canucks general manager announced he was done for the season over concerns the eye injury he suffered almost two years ago left the veteran center vulnerable on the ice.
Injured: Ray Whitney
Notes: Jamie Oleksiak was sent back to the American Hockey League on Thursday. … Roussel and Vincour swap spots in the press box, while Smith is moved up to the second line in place of Ryder. … Lehtonen has been the Stars' best player this season, but is 2-7-0 with a 3.69 goals-against average and .879 save percentage against the Canucks in his career.
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