VANCOUVER — The final call won't be made until after the pregame warm-up, but it appears that Manny Malhotra will get a chance to play in Saturday's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Canucks forward has been out since suffering a serious eye injury March 16 against Colorado, but he practiced fully with the club on Friday and has been cleared to play.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault would only say that it will be a "game-time decision" whether or not Malhotra returns to the lineup in Game 2, but Malhotra took that as an encouraging sign.
"It's gone from day to day to game-time decision right now," Malhotra said after Saturday's morning skate. "I'm honestly not trying to send you guys on a wild goose chase. That's just the nature of the situation right now."
When pressed if he felt healthy enough to play, Malhotra responded, "I feel really good, yeah. I felt good yesterday skating. Felt good this morning. So, again, hopefully I'll continue throughout the day."
Malhotra skated with Jeff Tambellini and Victor Oreskovich on the fourth line in practice and would likely start off there if he is dressed. But with his strong faceoff skills and penalty-killing ability, Malhotra will likely see more ice than a normal fourth-liner if he is up to the added workload.
"Obviously being good in the circle is going to be a big part of what I do," Malhotra said. "It's always tough to say how your legs are going to be responding in a game. I felt good the last few days of skating as far as my wind goes. I think early on, things we're going to talk about if I go, is just simplicity, getting my feet moving, getting pucks in, making smart decisions with the pucks, keeping things real basic for right now."
There won't be anything basic about the reaction Malhotra will have to playing in the Final after nearly having his career ended when he took a puck to the eye.
"It's obviously an incredible position to be in," Malhotra said. "I think everybody that's on the ice tonight has dreamed about this at some point or another in their career, growing up. I realize the significance of the moment. At the same time, once the puck is dropped, I'm going to have to just, again, bring it back to basics. Just another game, got to do the things I've done my whole career."
The rest of the Canucks are just as excited about the possibility of getting Malhotra back in the lineup, and his return would certainly give Vancouver an emotional boost.
"It's going to be real emotional if it happens, if he's good to go," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "Manny has been around the team throughout this injury the last couple weeks. He's been a huge part of our success this year. So for us, it's going to be a big boost if he comes back. I'm really happy for him."
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