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Canucks' Raymond still waiting for chance

by Kevin Woodley
VANCOUVER -- Goalie Roberto Luongo isn't the only player that can't get back into the Canucks' lineup after missing time with injury.

While Luongo watches backup Cory Schneider make a sixth-straight start Tuesday against Columbus -- four since Luongo was deemed healthy from an upper body injury -- Mason Raymond also sits on the sidelines waiting his turn.

Raymond hasn't played since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, when an awkward hit from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk left him with broken vertebrae in his back, a body brace and a new perspective about a game he wasn't certain he'd play again.

"You don't realize how lucky you are to have the use of your arms and legs, to be able to put your clothes on and get in and out of bed," he said. "That was a long time, so to be able to do that and get to the point where every-day life was good but you can't compete at a level in the sport we do, you look back at a lot of things in life and how much bigger the big picture is. I'm very lucky and thankful to be in the position I am now."

That position includes being cleared for contact the last week, and telling coach Alain Vigneault he was ready to play just before Saturday's game with San Jose. But with the Canucks on a four-game win streak, getting back in the lineup won't be easy.

That Vancouver added a similarly skilled player in David Booth in a trade with Florida while Raymond was out doesn't improve his odds of cracking the top-six when he does. There was some thought he'd move up to play with Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the top line after practicing there Monday while Alexandre Burrows received stitches for a tough-to-close gash on his finger, suffered on a slash from Sharks center Joe Thornton. But with Burrows ready to play tonight, Raymond will have to keep waiting.

Raymond, who scored 25 goals in 82 games two seasons ago and 15 in 70 games last season, isn't picky about where he goes back in -- the speedy forward played well on the fourth line after missing time last season -- but admitted to some anxiousness about getting back into total game shape and rhythm, both physically -- and perhaps more so -- mentally.

"I haven't played hockey since June 13, no training camp, missed out on a lot, worked real hard to get to this point, been through a lot of stuff, but very pleased with where I’m at," Raymond said. "I'd be lying if I said there wouldn't be a little nerves. … The game might be 70 percent mental, so it's not going to be an easy transition, but it's something I'm working at and I think I'll be stronger from what I've had to go through."
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