Kesler returns as Canucks host Rangers
The Vancouver Canucks finally got their power play clicking in their last game. The return of Ryan Kesler could help the club's special teams make even greater improvements.
Kesler is expected to make his season debut Tuesday night when the Canucks host a winless New York Rangers team beginning a trek through Canada before finally stepping on home ice next week.
The Canucks (2-2-1) were a league-best 24.3 per cent on the power play in 2010-11, when they set a club record for wins (54) and advanced to the Stanley Cup final, but they have converted just 3 of 18 with the man advantage in dropping three of four to open this season.
Vancouver, though, had power-play goals from Henrik Sedin and Sami Salo, who added a second score — the eventual game-winner — in the third period of Saturday's 4-3 victory at Edmonton.
With the Canucks opening a stretch of five of six at home, Kesler is set to return after undergoing surgery in July to repair a torn hip labrum — his second hip surgery in four years.
"My hip is 100 per cent," said Kesler, who had just one assist in the Stanley Cup final loss against Boston after scoring 18 points in the first three rounds.
"… I expect big things from myself."
So does Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault, who will likely put the second-line centre between former Ranger Chris Higgins and Cody Hodgson.
"[Kesler] assured me the injury was behind him and we weren't going to see him limping and we weren't going to see any 'pain faces,'" Vigneault said. "He's ready to go and we're going to put him in."
The Rangers (0-1-2) likely wouldn't mind if Kesler, the reigning Selke Trophy winner who had career highs with 41 goals and 73 points last season, took some more time to get back into game shape. The first-time all-star in 2010-11 was fourth in the NHL in power-play goals with 15 — three shy of league-leader and teammate Daniel Sedin.
That doesn't bode well for New York, which is among the league leaders in penalty minutes per game with 20:40.
The Rangers committed eight penalties in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders, the club's first game in North America after dropping two in Stockholm.
"We're not disciplined enough and Europe has nothing to do with tonight's game," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said.
New York, which opens the season with seven road games before its home opener Oct. 27 at the renovated Madison Square Garden, will try to snap a five-game skid in Vancouver as it begins a four-game stretch in Canada.
In the teams' only meeting last season, the Rangers ended the Canucks' 17-game point streak and franchise-record 10-game undefeated road stretch with a 1-0 victory Jan. 13.
Vancouver had won nine of 10 in this matchup before Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots.
Lundqvist was 0-3-0 with a 4.59 goals-against average in three previous starts against the Canucks.
Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, who has allowed 11 goals in three starts this season, is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA in two starts against the Rangers since joining Vancouver in 2006, but both of those were in 2008.
Cory Schneider turned away 34 of 35 shots in last season's meeting at New York - his first regulation loss after opening 8-0-2.
Kesler matched a career high with three assists the last time these teams played in Vancouver, a 4-1 Canucks victory Nov. 3, 2009.
Higgins scored the Rangers' goal in that matchup.