|An injury limited Paul Kariya to just 11 games last season, but after two hip surgeries, he says he's back and better than ever. (Getty Images).
STOCKHOLM -- Blues coach Andy Murray calls veteran forward Paul Kariya "the bionic man" these days, and for good reason.
Kariya had surgeries on both hips last season, limiting him to only 11 games (he had 15 points) before his season was done. After a grueling rehab and a long summer, Kariya is ready for a seamless transition back into the lineup.
"He's better than what we have already seen from Paul and he was over a point a game when he got hurt last year," Murray said Thursday. "He's the bionic man. He's got two new legs and it probably added three years to his career."
Kariya's only setback in camp was a sore groin, but he told NHL.com the doctors had informed him that would happen because the muscles around his hips would "take a little time to get going."
However, entering Friday's season opener against Detroit, Kariya says everything is normal again, which is great news to the Blues, who hope to see some of that same magic Kariya had with Keith Tkachuk and Brad Boyes two seasons ago.
Although the Blues finished 14th in the Western Conference that year, those three played together for most of the season and finished 1-2-3 on the club in scoring. Kariya led the team with 49 assists and tied for the lead with 65 points. Boyes had 65 points thanks to a career-best 43 goals. Tkachuk had 27 goals and 58 points.
"They were our best line two years ago," Murray said. "That's the rationale (for having them back together). I'm not that smart. We're just hoping the past is good enough."
Kariya, though, admits he'll have to adjust to the way the Blues want to play now. While he was sidelined last season, the Blues, who also were missing Erik Johnson, Andy McDonald
, T.J. Oshie
and Eric Brewer, became a team that was hard to play against.
It's an attitude and style they plan on bringing into the 2009-10 season. Kariya, known more for his skill than his toughness, understands he has to jump on board.
"It's a team game so you have to play how the team is playing," he said. "Right now if you try to play offense only or you don't do the little things like get the puck in and get the puck out you're not going to be in the League. The game is just not played like that at any level. It is more of an adjustment for me to come back and fit into that system."
With Kariya itching to get back at it, he's ready to work within any type of system.
"It was not an easy surgery, and to have it twice," Kariya said. "... But the doctor was great and I got perfect care. My body feels good and I'm ready to go."