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Canucks forward Ryan Kesler returns for playoff opener. @NHL

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -Ryan Kesler, out since January following hip surgery, was a surprise addition to the Vancouver Canucks lineup Wednesday night when they opened a first-round playoff series against the Dallas Stars.

Kesler had surgery Jan. 29 to repair a torn labrum, the cartilage that lines the socket of the hip. He missed the rest of the regular season, but began skating with the Canucks this week.

Kesler said on the eve of the series opener that he didn't expect to play Wednesday but hoped to be in the ice sometime in the first round. While the Canucks got Kesler back, they were without defenseman Brent Sopel (back spasms). Rory Fitzpatrick took his place in the lineup.

In 48 regular-season games, Kesler had six goals and 10 assists. A lot of expectations were heaped on Kesler when he signed a $1.9-million contract with the Canucks before training camp.

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