VANCOUVER (CP) - Returning to the playoffs after a six-year absence was the same thing all over again for the Vancouver Canucks forward Josh Green.
Green missed the final 18 games of the regular season and the first three games of the Canucks opening round playoff against the Dallas Stars due to a knee injury.
When he was finally given the nod to play in Sunday's Game 4 it was his first playoff appearance since he was an Edmonton Oiler in 2001.
Green had missed all of the 2000-01 season with a pair of shoulder injuries. When he finally returned to the lineup the Oilers were facing the Stars in a series Dallas won 4-2.
"It was very familiar to me," Green said Thursday prior to the Canucks playing the Stars in Game 5. "It felt eerily similar to the last time I went out there. A lot of the same guys are still in Dallas."
Green played 7:26 in the Canucks' 2-1 win over Dallas Sunday that gave Vancouver a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final series.
"I think it went all right," he said. "Obviously there was some nerves to begin the game. I think that was a good thing because the energy was there. I wasn't really thinking about my knee so much.
"I was a little worried about the speed of the game and making sure I had my legs. I tried to keep things short early in the game, just to make sure I didn't get caught out there too long. I tried to give what ever I had for what ever they wanted from me."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is happy to have Green back.
"He is going to help us down the road," said Vigneault. "He's got good jump and he's a good penalty killer. He's going to be fine for us."
Green's injury came just as the 29-year-old from Camrose, Alta., was completing his first full season in the NHL since 2001-02. He had two goals and five assists in 57 games while playing mainly on a checking line.
While he didn't score often, Green's goals were timely. He had the winner in a game against Montreal and scored the deciding goal in Vancouver's shootout win over Florida.
Green strained his knee March 1 against Phoenix. He was trying to hit the Keith Ballard after the Phoenix defenceman had thumped Vancouver's Alex Burrows with a big hit.
At the time Green thought he would be back before the season ended.
"I was shooting for right at the end of the regular season," said Green. "I had an MRI and it was a little worse than we had anticipated.
"It took a long time. It came together nicely at the end. For a while it didn't look like I was going to get back in."
Green had some anxious moments in his first game back. He was killing a Canucks penalty in the first period when he shot the puck over the glass, giving Dallas five-on-three advantage for one minute 55 seconds.
He admitted to praying in the penalty box as Vancouver killed off both penalties.
Green has been a hockey nomad since the L.A. Kings picked him 30th overall in the 1996 draft. He's played for the Kings, Islanders, Oilers, Rangers (twice), Capitals and Flames before signing with Vancouver as a free agent in 2005.
During that stretch he served several stints in the minors and wondered if he'd ever see the playoffs again.
"It was frustrating," Green said. "You always hold out hope you will make it back and are going to be part of something special.
"That was my light at the end of the tunnel."