Daniel Sedin is back - and he is, according to his twin brother, "100 per cent."
Daniel Sedin, after he was concussed by a vicious elbow to the head on March, missed the last nine games of the regular season (eight of which the Canucks won). On Monday morning, the Vancouver Canucks top goal-scorer returned to the ice, with zest, for the first time (in public) at Rogers Arena, for a team practice, and appears ready to play Game 1 of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.
The Canucks shielded Sedin from the glare of television cameras and questions from reporters after practice, but brother and team captain Henrik spoke with confidence.
"He's 100 per cent now," said Henrik of Daniel, answering a question about whether teams might target Daniel when he returns to game play.
"I don't think it's going to be any different than before. Guys are going to try to hit him, and me, and other players."
The official word on Daniel's return is more cautious. Coach Alain Vigneault said the decision whether Daniel will play on Wednesday is a medical one.
"He looked good," the Canucks coach said of Daniel on the ice.
"We'll see how he's doing tomorrow."
Monday marked the 19th day since Sedin's concussion. He was on the ice for about 10 minutes before the main 11 a.m. PT practice, skating with vigour and practising one-timers. Then he was back for the full practice, a spirited hour packed with offensive drills, power play, 6-on-5 and 5-on-5.
Daniel appeared to be pretty much in game shape, skating with a regular jersey and helmet, which states he is cleared for contact. In one instance, down low at the net, behind the goal line, he bobbled a pass, missing an easy opportunity to put a puck into Roberto Luongo's net on a power-play drill. In another sequence, Sedin took a small shove into the boards from Keith Ballard, who himself is recovering from a concussion.
Sedin had skating privately before Monday's practice, Vigneault confirmed Monday. Vigneault wouldn't say how many times. In practice he was on a line with his brother, and Alex Burrows, the standard configuration of the Canucks' top line.
Last week, team management had - on the record, and quietly - suggested that Daniel Sedin twins would be ready for the playoffs. The Canucks were mostly in full lockdown mode in terms of information on Sedin, with twin Henrik occasionally offering a few fractions. Piecing it together, Daniel had some troubles early on in his recovery from the concussion but has otherwise advanced strongly - which bodes well for the Canucks looking to have No 22 back on the first line Wednesday night.
The Canucks will need all the firepower they can get against the Kings, having scored just seven goals in four games during the regular season against Jonathan Quick, a likely Vezina candidate. (Roberto Luongo delivered much the same against the limp Kings' offence, eight goals in four games, including a shutout).
The keys to score on Quick will be screens and to bang at rebounds, says winger Chris Higgins.
"Just like any goalie, put a guy in front of him," Higgins said on Monday. "It makes it a little more difficult when he can't see it. And getting the second and third opportunities. Most goalies in this league are going to make the first save, sometimes even the second save. If you get that third opportunity, you get to like your chances."
Daniel was the Canucks' second-leading scorer this season, with 67 points in 72 games. His 30 goals topped the team. Last year, he had 104 points in 82 games, with 41 goals, which made him the league's leading point getter, and finalist for the most valuable player award.