Vancouver’s Manny Malhotra Cleared for Stanley Cup Action, Could Make Major Impact on Face-Offs

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Canucks forward Manny Malhotra's left eye is still swollen and bloodshot, clearly showing the signs of a puck that derailed his season in March. Yet, Malhotra has been medically cleared to jump in on the Stanley Cup action.

It's Manny being Manny, Vancouver style.

Malhotra has stayed close with the team, recently practicing on a non-contact basis to keep a tight relationship with his teammates. They saw his pride and work ethic, and that will make his potential return even more significant in their eyes.

Much of the Stanley Cup Final between the Canucks and Bruins will be about skill, but emotion and desire will be just as vital. His return — considered very possible if not completely certain — would help the Canucks in that department.

Malhotra is a face-off wizard who would add some punch to the third or fourth line, and his presence would provide a welcomed boost there. Since Maxim Lapierre has done a nice job while taking Malhotra's spot on the third line, Malhotra would fit well on the Canucks' seldom-used fourth line, which would give him ample opportunity to find his legs in his first game action in two and a half months.

Malhotra (61.7 percent) was the NHL's second-best face-off man in the regular season, and his depth would be important. Patrice Bergeron (62.3 percent), Ryan Kesler (54.7), David Krejci (51.7) and Lapierre (50.8) are the only players in the series who have won the majority of their face-offs in the postseason. The Canucks would be happy just to take some of the burden off Kesler's shoulders.

Malhotra probably wouldn't be a difference maker in the points department — the Canucks have the Sedin twins for that — but the surprising medical developments would give the Canucks a spark. They've gotten some heart back, and Malhotra's intangibles would give definitely be helpful for Vancouver.

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