Sundin noncommittal on Canucks debut

Mats Sundin told reporters Tuesday that he isn't sure when he'll make his debut as a Vancouver Canuck.

Mats Sundin told reporters Tuesday that he isn't sure when he'll make his debut as a Vancouver Canuck.

Sundin, who arrived in Vancouver on Monday, made the admission at an afternoon news conference after skating and practising with his new teammates for the first time earlier in the day.

"I'm not sure," the former Toronto Maple Leafs captain said. "It'll be a decision made by the coaching staff."

Sundin, 37, officially signed with the Canucks on Dec. 18 after spending 13 seasons with the Leafs.

The centre admitted it was a bit strange to be back in an NHL locker room after training on his own for the past few weeks and sitting out the first three months of the season as he pondered his future.

"It's a different feeling for sure. It's nice to be back on the ice. I haven't been in the locker room for nine months, and that's one of the reasons why I wanted to get back on the ice, to continue my NHL career and play against the best players in the world," Sundin said.

Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis signed the big Swede to a one-year contract that, pro-rated, will pay him about $5.625 million US for the rest of this season.

'It was a mixed emotional season'

Sundin admitted he delayed his return to the NHL until his desire to play had returned.

"It's as good as it has been for the last few years," said Sundin. "Last year was frustrating. We struggled. It was a mixed emotional season.

"When I look back at last year, I really enjoyed playing. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off."

The veteran forward said he believes the Canucks are a strong enough team to go on a lengthy run in the post-season.

"I feel the Canucks have a good enough team to be strong in the playoffs," he said. "I hope I can contribute and bring my game back the way I played last season.

"I am going to try and do everything I can to try and help this team get into the playoffs."

Coach won't rush Sundin

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault won't rush the star in making his return.

"We'll let him get ready physically and mentally … then we'll make those decisions," said Vigneault. "We'll let him get in shape and ready to play."

Sundin notched 30 or more goals five times in the past six campaigns, leading the Leafs with 32 goals and 78 points in 74 games last year.

He has scored 555 goals in 17 NHL seasons with Toronto and the former Quebec Nordiques.

Vancouver hosts the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. A possible return date for Sundin is Jan. 7 when the Canucks visit the Edmonton Oilers.

With files from the Canadian Press