VANCOUVER, B.C. - Injured defenceman Willie Mitchell made a rare visit to the Vancouver Canucks dressing room Tuesday.
Mitchell, who has rarely been seen around GM Place since suffering a concussion in January, slipped in and out before Game 6 of the team's Western Conference semifinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Everybody talked to him," said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. "He's hanging around and he really wanted to come to the rink and talk to the guys. There was no reason for it. He just wants to be around the guys."
Mitchell was injured in a collision with Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, and there have been differing reports on his condition.
At one point, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis indicated his recovery was going well, but other reports have suggested he has difficulty dealing with loud crowds and bright lights due to post-concussion symptoms and he has been unable to exercise let alone play hockey.
Bieksa said Mitchell, considered one of the league's best defensive defencemen, inspired him and centre Ryan Johnson prior Game 5 in Chicago, where the Canucks won to keep their season alive.
The three players, who all live in the same area, ran into each other just as Johnson and Bieksa were headed to the airport to catch their flight to Chicago.
"I was pulling out of the parkade right behind (Mitchell) and then he pulled over and Ryan Johnson was driving by and he stopped and came over and we had a little (Hockey Night in Canada) Hot Stove of our own for about a half hour," Bieksa recalled.
"He just gave us his insight on what he was seeing out there and a little bit of advice. It was all about hockey, obviously all about the way he felt we should approach the game."
Mitchell, a 30-year-old native of tiny Port McNeill on Vancouver Island, has become a star despite being a lowly eighth-round draft choice of the New Jersey Devils in 1996.
His future with the Canucks is being questioned because his contract is slated to expire at the end of the season.