ANAHEIM — Ryan Kesler feels six months of laborious rehabilitation work was well worth the process to deal with a major hip surgery that was necessary.
“Just being able to walk without hurting,” Kesler said while preparing to make his season debut for the Ducks. “Being able to go to Disneyland and not worrying how my hip’s going to feel the next day is probably the biggest thing on a lifestyle basis.”
After 37 games where he had to watch the Ducks survive with a short-handed lineup, Kesler was back in action and playing in all situations against the Vegas Golden Knights. The center wanted to give it a go after skating with the team on its trip before Christmas.
“It felt good,” Kesler said afterward. “Obviously a little rusty. Some of my reads were going to probably be a little off and they were. I think as the game went on, I kind of settled in. Nice to get Silvy (Jakob Silfverberg) and Cogs (Andrew Cogliano) back together. Get the old line back together, the band back together.
“After that happened, we put together a couple of good shifts.”
Even though his last game played was Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against Nashville, Kesler is getting back into action without a short conditioning assignment in the American Hockey League. The center figured that at some point he had to make the leap from practicing to playing.
“That’s the what-if,” Kesler said. “You never know until you play. I’ve been battling out there.”
Silfverberg said he knew Kesler was close to returning once he took the trip with them. Kesler was the runner-up to Boston’s Patrice Bergeron for the Selke Trophy last season as the NHL’s top defensive forward.
“He’s one of those who’s good at everything he does,” Silfverberg said. “He’s strong on faceoffs. He’s really strong defensively. Really strong offensively as well so obviously it’s a key player that’s been playing a lot of minutes throughout his couple of seasons with us.”