NHL

Bobby Ryan returns to Senators practice after entering player assistance program

Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan practised with the team Wednesday for the first time since entering the NHL/National Hockey League Players' Association assistance program in November.

No timetable for veteran forward's return to lineup, says head coach D.J. Smith

Senators head coach D.J. Smith says there is no timetable for the return of forward Bobby Ryan, who joined his teammates at Wednesday's practice after entering the NHL/ NHL Players' Association assistance program in November. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press/File)

Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan practised with the team Wednesday for the first time since entering the NHL/National Hockey League Players' Association assistance program in November.

Head coach D.J. Smith said there's no timetable for Ryan to return to the lineup as he gets back into game shape.

The NHL and the NHLPA announced Nov. 20 that Ryan would take part in the assistance program, and did not offer further comment at the time.

"We're looking forward to seeing him compete with us on a daily basis and work his way back into the lineup," Senators goalie Craig Anderson said following Wednesday's practice.

Ryan, the No. 2 overall pick by Anaheim in the 2005 draft, has one goal and four points in 16 games this year.

The 32-year-old has registered 250 goals and 301 assists in 825 career games with Anaheim and Ottawa.

Ex-Sens coach Guy Boucher lends helping hand

The player assistance program was first offered in 1996 and is designed to help players and their families treat health issues.

Ryan credited former Senators head coach Guy Boucher, a psychology major, with helping him work a difficult 2016-17 season when he posted 25 points in 62 regular-season games, a career low in his 12 NHL campaigns.

"I had some things that needed to get settled away from the rink, I'll just put it that way," Ryan, a native of Cherry Hill, N.J., told the National Post in October 2017. "I was having a very tough time with it and he helped me a lot through it, really. 

"When you compound it, media, and with not scoring and all that kind of stuff, it's pretty easy to go to a pretty dark place."

Highest-paid Senators player

Ryan's tough upbringing has been well-documented, how his father, Bob, physically abused his mother and then, while on the lam, dragged Bobby to California and changed their last name from Stevenson.

"That's been long gone and long put away," Ryan said in 2017, "but it seems like there's always something. Everybody can relate, there's always something that pops up and just kind of pulls on you."

Ryan is the highest-paid player on the Senators with a seven-year, $50.8-million US contract expires after the 2021-22 season.

Ottawa acquired Ryan in a trade with Anaheim in July 2013, on the same day they lost franchise player Daniel Alfredsson to the Detroit Red Wings in free agency.

With files from CBC Sports

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