NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" will run every Tuesday through the 2017-18 regular season. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler.
CALGARY -- Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle has known center Ryan Kesler since he played for him with Manitoba of the American Hockey League in 2004-05.
Interestingly, Carlyle said the Kesler of those days isn't much different than the 33-year-old Kesler, a father of two daughters and one son. He's still as feisty, intense and hard working as ever, qualities that served him well during his months of recovery and rehabilitation from June 8 hip surgery in Colorado.
"I don't think he's changed that much," Carlyle said. "He was a guy that took on all comers when he was on the ice. There is a little difference. The question mark then was whether he could be a true No. 2 offensive center or was he just going to be a checker. And he's been a true No. 2 center. And in some situations, he's taken on a No. 1 role in the absence of people and whatnot."
Kesler didn't return to the Ducks lineup until Dec. 27 against the Vegas Golden Knights. He's played six games and has three points (one goal, two assists) and minus-4 rating. When the Ducks lost 3-2 to the Calgary Flames on Saturday, it was the first time this season Kesler, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf were in the lineup at the same time.
There are bound to be stops and starts for Kesler, who attempts to return to form. He missed the second period against the Flames with a lower-body injury but returned for the third. The Ducks are on their five-day break and next play at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, PRIME, NHL.TV).
"He's a guy that historically skates miles, and right now, I would say he's operating at 80 percent, 75 percent somewhere around there," Carlyle said. "He's not 100 percent healthy, but I don't know if every player can say that they are 100 percent healthy at times.
"With us now, he's getting an opportunity to play on the power play, in the front of the net. Maybe we're rushing him there. But I think he wants to be there."
Kesler, a five-time Selke Trophy finalist as the best defensive forward, took time to talk about his road back from surgery, his chemistry with linemates Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano and his 7-year-old, hockey-playing son, Ryker, who landed in the spotlight during the 2017 All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles at Staples Center:
Here are Five Questions With … Ryan Kesler:
You've played six games since returning from offseason hip surgery. How are you faring so far and what did you do during your months of rehabilitation?
"Obviously there's still some good days, some bad days, but I'm turning in the right direction. I was busy the whole day. I basically had a nine-to-five job, and it was tedious and it was taxing, and I just stayed patient through it all.
"I probably had less time with the kids, actually. Usually I'm home from the rink at noon or 1:00 and then I wouldn't get home until 4 or 5 every day, so it was probably less time with them. But I got to do things with them that I wouldn't normally get to do if I was on the road and stuff, just going to my son's hockey games, going to my daughter's plays."
Video: ANA@EDM: Kesler redirects Silfverberg's tip in front
Speaking of your son, Ryker, his goal against Carey Price in the skills competition was one of the highlights of the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. Almost a year later, how is Ryker's hockey coming along and do you ever watch the video of his goal against Price?
"I think he's came off his high horse a little bit, so he's just grinding it out now. He knows I just want him to have fun and work hard, and that's all I tell him.
"No, I don't, but I'm sure he does watch it on YouTube. But who knows? He was pretty excited. I think my whole family was pretty excited, it was just one of those things that was a cool experience for him and a cool experience for everyone."
Between your videos with your teammates and Kevin Bieksa's skits, we get to see the lighter side of the Ducks. How important is it to get that across to the fans?
"I think the Ducks do a pretty good job of showing our personalities. It's fun, obviously. People don't really know the player behind the person."
By the standards of today's NHL, in which coaches like to tinker with lines game-to-game, or even period-to-period, your partnership with Cogliano and Silfverberg has stayed remarkably intact. Is that a sign of trust from coach Carlyle?
"For our line, I think we're successful. And if we're successful, we kind of make it hard for the coach to move us. Our line's been pretty good, we're shutting down the other team's top line and creating offense as well, and it gives us a threat at both ends.
Saturday was the first time this season that you, Getzlaf and Perry have been in the lineup at the same time. What does it say about the Ducks that they were able to stay in the race during your absence and the other injuries to top players?
"I've said it before, everybody in this room stepped up. You get a Derek Grant that goes on the first line and has success. I think the two biggest reasons are (goaltenders) Ryan Miller and John Gibson. Those have been our two best players. We've really had players stepping up their games.
"We think we have a pretty good room. I can't speak for the rest of the League, but I've been on some teams that have been really good and have really good rooms, and I think that coincides with success."