Slowly but surely the Canucks roster is returning to normal with Ryan Kesler returning to the line-up tonight as the Canucks try to put the finishing touches on a perfect three game homestand facing the Phoenix Coyotes tonight.
It has been a trying year for the 28 year-old, who has played in just seven games this year. Starting the season on the shelf recovering from offseason shoulder and wrist surgery, Kesler returned to the injury bay with a broken foot that sidelined him since late Februray.
"It's exciting.It's been a tough year so far so now it's time to get some games in," said Kesler, who has been understandably frustrated with the spell of injuries he's dealt with.
"I've learned a lot about my body. I think I'm more mentally aware of my body and what I need to do to keep it 100%. Everything is a new experience and I'll just have learn from it."
Kesler will be eased into action according to Alain Vigneault due to the shortened season and lack of practice time.
"He's been out for quite some time now and has been off skates for quite some time now," said Vigneault. "But like they used to do in the old days we are going to play him into shape. We don't have the luxury of a lot of practices so at the beginning we are going to limit his ice time a little bit but we are going to play him on a regular line and hopefully the more he gets games the better he will be down the road for us."
Kelser spent the morning skate on a line with Zack Kassian and Mason Raymond.
Kesler isn't the only Canuck making his return to the lineup following a broken foot with Keith Ballard drawing back in after missing five games with a "minor bone fracture."
Ballard will be playing his familiar defense position, not the forward role he was thrust into when the Canucks lineup was decimated by injuries, but with nearly everyone back in the lineup he feels the team is finding it's comfort zone.
"I think in a way it's good because it slots everyone into the spot they are best suited. You know for a while when our lineup was so banged up you had guys playing in scenarios they aren't used to and quite frankly other guys are better suited for so now everyone kind of falls into place."
Ballard's return conincides with Chris Tanev taking a night off, as Alain Vigneault said the young defenceman is "day-to-day" with a leg injury he suffered against Calgary on Saturday. Another change on the back-end sees Andrew Alberts draw in for Cam Barker.
Tonight is the rubber match in the Coyotes and Canucks season series as both teams have taken a game, the last a 2-1 Canucks win in Phoenix. With a win the Canucks will move four points up on idle Minnesota in the Northwest Division race and polish off a perfect three game homestand.
Vancouver is tied for the hottest record in the NHL through the last ten games, going 8-2-0, with Cory Schneider starting all 10. He will make his 11th consecutive start tonight.