Anaheim forward Chris Kunitz is in the lineup for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final (CBC, 8 p.m. ET), returning ahead of schedule from a broken right hand.
"He's worked hard off ice, but this is not mid-season —this is the Stanley Cup final," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, whose team holds a 2-0lead against the Ottawa Senators in the best-of-seven series. "It will be a raucous atmosphere [in Ottawa] and the body can be drained in a hurry.
While Kunitz is in the lineup, he didn't return to his familiar left wing spot alongside Andy McDonald and Teemu Selanne on Anaheim's top line to start the game.
Instead, checking forward Travis Moen earned a promotion to the No. 1 unit to start the game.
Kunitz, though, did team with Selanne to set up a Ducks power-play goal at 5:39 of the first period to give Anaheim a 1-0 lead.
Kunitz, 27, was injured in Game 1 of the Western Conference final against Detroit and missed the next seven contests.
The rugged winger has a goal and five assists in 11 playoff games this year.
"It's been painful watching,"Kunitz said after the Ducks' morning skate on Saturday. "It's probably one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life …
"From the initial shock of them telling me that the season was going to be over, it's a great relief that I might have a chance now."
The turning point forKunitz came on Friday night when he spoke to theDucks' doctor.
"The last question we asked the doctor is that if this was your son, would you allow him to play? And the answer, obviously, was yes," said Carlyle.
Added Selanne: "It's a big boost for us. He's a big part of our team. We need everybody out there. We have played a year and a half together. It always helps when you play with guys who know each other really well. He's physical, he's got speed. He's unbelievable."
Kunitz's right hand appeared to still be a bit swollen earlierSaturday and he said he expected it to be a "little tight" during the game.
Still, he wasn't worried that it would become something the Ottawa players would target.
"If it was going to be that easy to hurt or something, I wouldn't be out there," said Kunitz. "It's a physical game, but I don't think anyone's going to go out of their way."
Neil becomes a dad
The Senators also received some good news Saturday as winger Chris Neil arrived at Scotiabank Place as a first-time father after his wife Caitlin gave birth to a daughter, Hailey Gena, late Friday night.
"I'm fortunate that I've got two exciting things going on in my life at the same time," Neil said. "It's hard to juggle them both, but I can do it.
"My wife has made it easier. She knows I've got to be here. It's an important time for me as well. She's given me enough time to rest. She's been a real trooper in this situation."