It seems like it was only yesterday when Ryan Kesler skated out onto the ice at Rogers Arena in his first game of the season after months of recovery from shoulder and wrist injuries. In fact, it was only seven games (about two weeks) ago.
“It felt good,” Kesler had told ESPN.com just before his second game back. “After basically 10 months of not playing a game and kind of sitting on the sidelines, it felt really good to be back out and compete again.” Unfortunately for Kesler and his team, he is now back to sitting on the sidelines. Injuries have struck the Vancouver Canucks yet again.
It is believed that Kesler originally hurt his foot blocking a shot in his first game back on February 15 against Dallas, but he continued to play six more games, notching one goal and four assists. During a recent four game road trip he had two x-rays on his foot, both proving negative. It was not until a CT scan on Wednesday that they discovered the broken bone in Kesler’s right foot.
“Any fracture is usually four to six weeks depending on the nature of the fracture,” head coach Alain Vigneault told canucks.com. “Some are less, hairline fractures or whatever. So I haven’t gotten any length from our doctors how long this one is going to be.” Kesler’s absence will be missed now even more than it was before. In the last seven games with Kesler on the ice, nine of the Canucks’ 18 goals have come from the top line, with only four coming from the remaining three lines. While it is a good thing that the Sedins and Burrows are producing, it is important that other players contribute as well to provide depth and versatility; now they are down one more potential top scorer. As well, one reason why the Sedins are playing so well could be because Kesler has played against other team’s top lines so that the Sedins do not have to.
“He can play against anyone in the league,” GM Mike Gillis told ESPN.com after Kesler’s return. “He’s a huge part of this team.”
Kesler’s only two point game of the season (and likely the best one he played out of the seven) came against Dallas on February 21. After that he was silent for two games, recording no shots on net against Nashville and Detroit. His faceoff percentage lowered as well, dropping to 45.4% against Nashville and 41.2% against Phoenix.
“It always seems like he’s playing through something,” Chris Higgins told The Province. “I feel like he was just starting to feel up to game speed and I’m sure on a personal level it’s pretty devastating because he’s going to have to start again with his conditioning and everything else.”
Jordan Schroeder took Kesler’s spot practicing on the first powerplay unit in practice on Wednesday. While Andrew Ebbett was originally recalled from the Chicago Wolves to take Kesler’s place, he was sent back after the Canucks lost forward Aaron Volpatti to the Washington Capitals and claimed Philadelphia Flyer Tom Sestito off of waivers.
If the Canucks were only plagued with forward problems, this last week might have been a bit easier to handle – but of course, Kesler’s injury was not the only one to cause headaches among Canucks’ management. Kevin Bieksa played only 9:31 of the game against Nashville last Friday before leaving for the dressing room with a groin injury. He has not played since, missing two games (which resulted in losses for the Canucks), and is still listed as day-to-day. Whether or not he plays against the LA Kings in the Canucks’ next game will be a game day decision. He practiced with the team Friday morning, but has no timeline of his return.
“[It was my] first skate with the guys, it was OK,” Bieksa told Canadian Press. “It’s getting better but I don’t have anything too interesting to tell you other than we’ll see how it feels.”
Andrew Alberts slotted in for Bieksa alongside Keith Ballard in the two games he has missed after sitting out 17 games and waiting for a chance to break into the lineup himself. In 17 games this season Bieksa has five goals and six points, scoring some important goals for the Canucks, such as the tying goal at the end of the third period against Chicago on February 19th to send the game to overtime. Alberts meanwhile, has finished both games played minus-1 with no points; last season, after 44 games, he finished plus-4 with three points.