Manny Malhotra returned to practice Friday with the Vancouver Canucks, still hoping to play in the Stanley Cup finals less than three months after a career-threatening eye injury.
Malhotra skated mostly with the Canucks’ reserve forwards at the University of British Columbia. Coach Alain Vigneault won’t give any hints whether Malhotra will play in Game 2 on Saturday night, but the veteran center remains hopeful he can impact the series.
”This is not about me wanting a sentimental shift,” said Malhotra, a faceoff specialist and standout defensive forward. ”It’s about me feeling I can contribute. … It’s a day-to-day situation. One day to the next, things have changed.”
Malhotra hasn’t played since a deflected puck hit him in the face March 16. The Canucks’ third-line center underwent at least two surgeries on his left eye, but returned to practice two weeks ago with a full-face shield.
Malhotra briefly seemed ready to return last weekend when the Canucks announced he had been cleared for contact, but he stayed off the ice at recent practices amid rumors of a setback in his recovery.
”If Manny does play, obviously he’s one of the best faceoff guys in the league, so he would be used a little bit more in our end without a doubt,” Vigneault said.
Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis didn’t skate in Friday’s practice after apparently getting hurt in Game 1 while delivering a low check on Boston’s Milan Lucic. Vigneault refused to provide an update on Hamhuis’ health or who might replace him in the lineup, but Game 1 scratch Andrew Alberts skated with Christian Ehrhoff at practice, while Aaron Rome teamed up with Kevin Bieksa, Hamhuis’ normal partner.
Ehrhoff suspects Vigneault will choose Alberts over Keith Ballard to replace Hamhuis in Game 2.