Don’t expect the Vancouver Canucks to make any excuses for an oh-so-close finish to their first-ever Stanley Cup victory, but the team was banged up by the time the Boston Bruins raised the silver chalice. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the team limp into the beginning of the 2011-12 season a bit, especially with their schedule being a bit treacherous in the early going.
Two-way forward Ryan Kesler, responsible defenseman Dan Hamhuis and checking center Manny Malhotra ranked among the most significant Canucks who are still fighting through injuries during a shortened off-season. With training camps commencing around the NHL, it’s time that teams begin to reveal updates – even if the changes might be clearer on the ice than in announcements from time to time.
The Vancouver Province provides an update that Kesler could be back late October or possibly sometime in November, although it’s also important to underline phrases such as “out indefinitely.” Although Kesler came back ahead of schedule the last time he dealt with a somewhat similar injury, Jason Botchford points out that the versatile forward’s second surgery was more invasive and the circumstances are different this time around. He was trying to get back for the playoffs last time, while this presents the lower stakes of early season games and off-season recovery.
In other Canucks injury-related news, Brad Ziemer takes a look at the recovery processes for Hamhuis and Malhotra. Hamhuis said that he’s now pain-free during his rehab from a sports hernia surgery, but he won’t rush back to action and will likely miss most of the team’s preseason games. That being said, the goal seems to be for him to be back by the start of the 2011-12 season.
“I’m feeling pretty good, working hard on rehabbing all summer,’ he said. “A few weeks ago it turned pain-free and now it’s just a matter of working hard and getting the strength and confidence back in that leg.”
Hamhuis hopes to be ready for the start of the regular season and likely won’t see any action until near the end of the exhibition schedule.
Speaking of missing a portion of the preseason, it appears that Malhotra won’t appear in at least some exhibition games as his recovery from a scary eye injury continues. Malhotra played in the final six games of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals but admitted that he underwent more procedures for his eye in the summer.
“I don’t want to get into too many details, but everything that needed to be done was done and the rest is up to me, how well do I heal,” said Malhotra, who did return to play in six playoff games in June. “Since then we did some different things to give me the best possible chance for a full recovery and we have laid out another plan to get back to where I need to be.”
While the Canucks expect to get Kesler, Hamhuis and Malhotra back at some point in the near future, one player who moved on completely is hard-shooting defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. Some might wonder how the team will fare without one of their top blueliners from last season, but Henrik Sedin was surprisingly frank about the Canucks ability to move on.
“I don’t think we lost anything,” Henrik Sedin said, bluntly.
Wait a minute. Doesn’t Henrik remember Ehrhoff’s 24 minutes a game and his 28 power play points? How could Henrik just dismiss the loss of the $40-million man?
“He was in a spot where we have other guys who can step up and play in that role,” Henrik continued. “Alex (Edler) is going to get more responsibility. We have a healthy Sami Salo now. We have a lot of guys who are going play a few more minutes.”
Considering how well the Canucks rolled with defensemen missing games – aside from maybe the last round – Sedin might just be right. The bottom line is that this team isn’t wildly different going into 2011-12, although injuries and wounded expectations will make the circumstances quite different.