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Canucks' Kesler denies requesting trade

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler was back on the ice and in the spotlight Thursday, but the hand he injured during the 2014 Sochi Olympics was far from the biggest story.

Kesler, who didn't play in the Canucks' 1-0 win against the St. Louis Blues the night before, spent most of his lengthy post-practice media scrum denying reports he had asked for a trade out of Vancouver.

"Completely false," Kesler said. "I'm happy. I love my teammates. I love the city. My son was born here, my kids grew up here."

Reports surfaced Wednesday night that Kesler had asked for a trade at the start of the season, and speculation has surrounded the Canucks for weeks that Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are the team's only untouchable players.

"It's coming from our seven-game losing streak, and when you have reports that everybody not named Sedin is on the trading block, I think it stems from that," said Kesler, who has a no-trade clause on a contract with a $5 million annual salary-cap charge through end of the 2015-16 season.

Kesler, who leads the Canucks with 20 goals and NHL forwards in average ice time at 22:12, said the team has not asked him about waiving that no-trade clause. The 29-year-old, who won the Selke Trophy in 2011, wouldn't speculate on his response if they did.

"I don't like to comment on what ifs," Kesler said.

Kesler was asked about reports he told people at the Olympics he was worried the hand injury might scuttle a possible trade.

"False. Hashtag Sochi Problems?" Kesler said with a quick smile. "I never commented to anybody that I wanted out. My heart is with this team and making the playoffs."

Kesler is in his 10th season with the Canucks, who made him the 23rd pick of the 2003 NHL Draft. But it's his first with coach John Tortorella, who took away Kesler's alternate captaincy when he went from the previous regime's system of having two players wear an "A" on the road and at home. Daniel Sedin and Kevin Bieksa remained alternate captains, and Kesler and Dan Hamhuis lost the role that was previously shared.

"It really does me no good to comment on that," Kesler said Thursday. "Obviously I was hurt at the time and I've talked with Torts about it and everything is fine there."

If Kesler needs advice on dealing with trade talk, he can always ask goaltender Roberto Luongo, who waited two seasons for a trade that never came, with backup Cory Schneider dealt instead.

"Whether he wants to go or stay, he's not going anywhere," Luongo said. "We all know how this script ends."

As for the hand, Kesler was taking one-time slap shots, working on his shootout moves, and playing in front of the net on the power play in practice Thursday. He injured it blocking a shot from Ilya Kovalchuk in a game against Russia, but managed to play the final four games for the United States before returning to Vancouver and being able to skate with the Canucks.

Kesler had an MRI on Monday and is listed as day to day, but might play Friday against the Minnesota Wild.

"It was better than I expected," Kesler said. "We'll see how I feel [Friday] and go from there. You always hope to play and I always want to play. I didn't want to sit out last game."

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