Leave it to veteran Vancouver Sun reporter Elliott Pap to bring up Ryan Kesler’s recent nude photo weeks after it was a story.
In all fairness though, Pap was as clever as ever during a huge media scrum surrounding Kesler Monday post-practice when the Canucks forward confirmed he will play Tuesday against the New York Rangers.
Pap: “Can you see the headline now: Ryan Kesler to dress for Tuesday night’s game.”
Kesler: “Is that going to be the headline?”
Pap: “It might be.”
Kesler: “You can come up with something more creative than that, can’t you?”
Kesler laughed off the suggested headline, but there’s less laughter and more fist-pumps around Vancouver that the defending Selke champion will return to the ice after missing the first five games of the season.
“My hip is 100 per cent,” confirmed Kesler, adding that he won’t be limping back onto the ice. “I expect big things from myself and obviously I want my minutes.”
Coach Alain Vigneault received a visit from Kesler Monday morning and the forward revealed he is finally ready to go. Vigneault's response was having Kesler skate between Chris Higgins and Cody Hodgson during practice Monday and coach is comfortable re-inserting Kesler into the line-up.
“He assured me that the injury is behind him, we weren’t going to see him limping, we weren’t going to see any pain faces, the only thing is that since he didn’t have a training camp, on the ice it’s going to take a little bit of time, but his injury is fine and he’s ready to go, so we’re going to put him in.”
Kesler’s minutes will be decided on a game-to-game basis, depending on how he looks and feels, said Vigneault.
The Canucks are as excited to have Kesler return as he is to be back, and if practices lines become a reality Tuesday, Higgins and Hodgson will be centered by one of the best two-way players in the game.
“He plays big minutes, he plays hard minutes, PP, PK, plays against the other team’s top line, so obviously it’s a big help for us to have him back in the line-up,” said Higgins.
“Hopefully he gets his conditioning back quickly and we al know what kind of impact he can have on the game.”
Kesler returning made it a numbers game for the Canucks and Chris Tanev was the casualty of that.
Tanev was re-assigned to the Chicago Wolves Monday; he appeared in three games with the Canucks this season.
The move was made out of Vancouver wanting Tanev to play as much hockey as possible, said Vigneault.
“We thought that so far this year he had done well, but right now he was still fighting for one of those five, sixth, seventh or eighth spot on our team and we just felt that with him being as young as he is, with the upside that he has, that he needed to go and play.”
NOTEWORTHY NOTES WORTH NOTING…
-Cody Hodgson was not about to be placed ahead of Henrik Sedin or Ryan Kesler as a centerman on one of the top-two lines. The solution was to move him to the wing, where he will play Tuesday night. That doesn’t change anything for Hodgson. “Our system is based on first forward, second forward, third forward, so obviously the way we play, the centerman takes the draws, but after that, it’s whoever is F1, F2 or F3, they all have different responsibilities. I don’t think it’s going to change.”
-Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver’s shutdown defenders, were part of different pairings at practice Monday. They’ve been split up for the time being. Bieksa was paired with Keith Ballard, Alex Edler skated with Hamhuis and Andrew Alberts and Sami Salo remained together from their debut Saturday. “What we’re looking at right now is trying to find good balance and chemistry in our defence. We like the way both Sami Salo and Andrew Alberts played last game together, that was the first time we put those two together. Ballard and Edler experiment didn’t quite pan out the way I wanted it to, so we’re going to try something else.”
-If the effort is there, results will follow. Coach Vigneault isn’t sweating Marco Sturm’s lack of production early on because the forward’s “attitude and effort are exemplary.” No one is happy with Sturm play, but no one is panicking. “He wants to do well right now, obviously it hasn’t gone the way he expected and the way we expected as far as his performance on the ice, but we’re working with him and hopefully everything will come together. He’s coming back from serious injuries and sometimes it takes certain players a little bit longer, but he’s a very classy and quality individual that we’re going to work with and see what happens.”
-Vancouver’s fourth line of Dale Weise, Maxim Lapierre and Aaron Volpatti has been getting the job done. Period. “In the last game in Edmonton, they were real efficient, they spent a lot of time in the other end where they were physical while the opportunity was there, so I think that line is slowly forming an identity. The way they are playing, they’re slowing forcing my hand to keep them together, which is what I want.”