Ryan Kesler

Vancouver should be careful with Ryan Kesler; hopes to be ready by opening night

During the last two seasons, Vancouver Canucks two-way forward Ryan Kesler’s star has risen as much as any other player in the NHL – at least if you narrow down the field to players who already showed promise. Kesler put an exclamation point on his Selke Trophy-winning 2010-11 season by dominating the Canucks’ second round series against the Nashville Predators, but rumors of injuries surfaced beginning in the Western Conference finals.

Kesler underwent hip surgery in early August, leaving many to wonder if he might miss a chunk of regular season games to start the 2011-12 campaign since the rehab window called for about 10-12 weeks of recovery.

Kesler seems (dangerously?) optimistic

Missing the beginning of next season remains a genuine possibility, but NHL.com passes along reports of Kesler’s optimism about being ready for action on October 6. Dan Rosen points out that Kesler already bounced back from a hip surgery earlier than expected once in his career. Kesler underwent a similar surgery in January 2007 and came back in 10 weeks (and in time for the playoffs), well ahead of the 12-16 week window that was originally given.

“It’s going good; small victories here and there,” Kesler told Canucks TV from his hometown of Livonia, Mich. “I just got off my crutches and I’ll start strengthening so everything is back to normal. I’ll start skating here in the next couple of weeks and hopefully be back by that first game.”

Kesler’s history with hip labrum surgery suggests he might just make the opening night lineup. He had a similar surgery in January 2007 and returned 10 weeks later — in time for the start of the playoffs. He was initially told he would be out anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks.

“I know what it takes. I know the rehab,” Kesler said. “It might even make me braver to try things I probably shouldn’t be trying, but it’s going to make me come back quicker and hopefully I can play in that first game.”

That last statement raises a red flag, though: “It might even make me braver to try things I probably shouldn’t be trying.” It’s inspiring to see hockey players fight through tough injuries, but the bottom line is that such actions sometimes have the disappointing consequence of limiting their on-ice effectiveness. It would be a shame if Kesler ends up only being a fraction of the world-class player he’s been for the last two seasons after rushing back from the surgery – or worse yet – if he greatly increases his chances of aggravating the injury by coming back too soon.

Canucks, Kesler should proceed with caution

Ultimately, it’s the job of the Canucks and their training staff to make sure that Kesler doesn’t come back too soon. Kesler is in the second year of his six-year, $30 million contract, so Vancouver would be wise to take the long view with their versatile center.

The Canucks aren’t the same team without Kesler’s speed, skills and tenacity, but Vancouver rolled with a lot of injury-related punches last season and probably needs to accept the possibility of a small hangover from last summer’s disappointments anyway. Obviously, the decision is up to both sides, but GM Mike Gillis & Co. would be wise to take a cautious approach with an important player who is just about to turn 27 years old.

Derek Roy signs in Swiss league

Derek Roy, Jeremy Smith, Chris Kelly
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Derek Roy has finally found work — but it’s not in the NHL.

Roy, who spent the entire preseason in Washington’s camp on a PTO, has signed with SC Bern of Switzerland’s National League A, the club announced on Friday.

The news comes after Roy narrowly missed out on making the Caps roster, and just one year after he had something of a bounce-back campaign in Edmonton, scoring 22 points in 46 games while developing chemistry with young winger Nail Yakupov.

A 12-year NHL veteran, Roy is one of the more prominent names to be squeezed out of work this season, and head overseas. The 31-year-old has scored over 500 points in 738 career contests, and has twice represented Canada at the World Hockey Championships.

With Bern, Roy will play on one of Switzerland’s stronger teams, alongside a trio of ex-NHLers: Chuck Kobasew, Andrew Ebbett and Cory Conacher.

Lehner’s injury ‘doesn’t look like it’s short term’

Robin Lehner
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Robin Lehner might not be back anytime soon.

Making his debut with the Buffalo Sabres, the 24-year-old goaltender couldn’t complete Thursday’s game against his former squad, the Ottawa Senators, due to what has now been revealed to be a right leg injury.

When he left the arena, he was wearing a walking boot on that nearly went up to his knee.

“It doesn’t look like it’s short term,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma told the Buffalo News. “It’s more than day-to-day at this point, but we need to evaluate further.”

It’s a rocky start to what’s an important campaign for Lehner. He has been given an opportunity to demonstrate that he’s ready to be a starting goaltender after being acquired by the Sabres over the summer, but it looks like that will have to be postponed.

While he’s sidelined, Chad Johnson is likely to be leaned on heavily.