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Kesler healthy, eager to play for Tortorella

by Corey Masisak /

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Training camp is going to be a little different for the Vancouver Canucks this season with new coach John Tortorella in charge.

It is also going to be different than recent ones for center Ryan Kesler, mostly because he will be participating in it. Kesler missed camp for the 2011-12 season because of hip surgery. He wasn't able to take part last season because he was still rehabbing after shoulder surgery.

"Put the past couple of years behind me is the key phrase," Kesler said. "It was a tough, tough two years. This summer was amazing. Being able to work out fully again and train and skate with the guys and really to have my first training camp in two years is exciting. I'm excited to get back at it."

Kesler had 41 goals and 73 points in 2010-11, and was a leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Canucks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. Multiple injuries slowed him as that postseason progressed, and he's struggled to find his elite form ever since.

He had 22 goals and 49 points in 77 games in 2011-12, and then was only able to play 17 games last season because a broken foot followed shortly after his return from the shoulder ailment.

"I feel like I haven't played in a couple of years," Kesler said. "I'm 100 percent."

A healthy season from Kesler would certainly help Tortorella out in his first season behind the bench in Vancouver. Tortorella has earned a reputation for being hard on his players, and with the New York Rangers he demanded that his top players were committed to playing defense and blocking shots as well as providing offense.

While people might be waiting to see how the new coach interacts with the Sedin twins or goaltender Roberto Lunogo, the perception is Kesler could thrive for Tortorella.

"I played under him at the Olympics," Kesler said. "He was running the d-corps, but obviously he wants hard work, he wants execution and he wants no mistakes. That's basically what my game is all about. He wants you to compete and doesn't want anybody to take a game off, which I like. If we play that way, we have the skill on this team to do some good things."

Staying healthy would also erase any doubt about Kesler's inclusion on the United States entry in the 2014 Winter Olympics. He was an easy choice for the team in 2010, and could even be the Americans' No. 1 center if he performs like he did before the injuries.

Kesler and Rangers forward Ryan Callahan are in a similar situation. Callahan had offseason shoulder surgery and could miss time at the start of the season. Both have to prove their injuries are behind them by the time when the team must be selected.

"I would agree that they are as close as it comes to -- well, we're trying to get away from saying guys are a lock to make the team, but being healthy and based on 2010 they should definitely be on the team," United States general manager David Poile said. "From what we know they should be fine physically and based on their play and our desire to have them on the team, there shouldn't be any reason why they wouldn't be there."


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