Ryan Kesler cleared to play, could be on ice with Canucks on Friday

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com
Kesler and his helmet hair are expected back on the ice very soon. (Getty Images)

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The Vancouver Canucks might have just lost one center, but they are on the verge of getting another one back.

Earlier Thursday, the Canucks announced Manny Malhotra is done for the season but, a short while later, said Ryan Kesler has been cleared for contact. Now it sounds like all systems are go according to coach Alain Vigneault.

Does that mean Kesler will play Friday night at home against Dallas? I wouldn't bet against it, that's for sure.

What a boon this is for the Canucks, especially if Kesler is close to full strength. Like you'd expect for somebody who has been out for months after shoulder surgery, the Canucks will probably ease him back into the lineup. But his return is huge. If he isn't at 100 percent right away, he will be soon enough and that's great news for Vancouver.

Kesler typically anchors the second line for the Canucks, one that two years ago was incredibly productive along with the top line featuring the Sedin twins. That was Kesler's breakout season, in which he scored 41 goals in 82 games to go with 32 assists. He was already a great player before that, but he took his goal-scoring to another level.

In the 2011-12 season, he had a downturn in performance as he was dealing with nagging injuries. Still, he had 22 goals and 27 assists, not bad for somebody who didn't appear to be 100 percent.

It looked like the Canucks were getting awfully thin in their top six when David Booth went down, but the Canucks have done a pretty good job in their absences. Vancouver has won six games in a row and is off to an 8-2-2 start. Again, that's without two top-six forwards and a player the caliber of Kesler. When he is back on the ice and up to speed, the Canucks will probably look every bit a monster on the ice.

Best of all? This means we have some great Keslurking to look forward to. That's the real treat here.

More from Eye on Hockey

Malhotra's season over

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