Raymond to play first game since breaking back in Cup final

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Mason Raymond will make his season debut tonight in Vancouver when the Canucks host Nashville. The 26-year-old winger knows he’s lucky for the opportunity after breaking his back during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.

“I’ve come a long ways,” Raymond told reporters yesterday. “You go from lying in bed for a week, barely moving, to being in a brace for a few months. It’s been a long process. I’m blessed to be able to be back here, playing the game I love. You don’t really realize, I think, what you use every day — the use of your hands, your legs, until something like that happens maybe.”

The injury occurred when Raymond was ridden into the boards by Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk. No penalty was called on the play, a decision that still bothers some Canucks fans, particularly given the four-game suspension handed to Aaron Rome during the series.

Of real concern, however, was Raymond’s health.

“I remember him going down and initially I thought he hit his head,” assistant coach Rick Bowness said. “Then he comes off the ice and you talk to the doctors and trainers and realize it’s a lower-back injury. That’s not good. Then they tell you the extent of it and it’s: ‘Wow. Is that career-threatening?’ It possibly could be. Fortunately, it wasn’t.

“People don’t know what he went through mentally and emotionally and what he had to go through physically just to get back, just to give himself an opportunity to play again. People don’t see what he goes through every day.”

Raymond is expected to skate on Vancouver’s third line with Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen.