Daniel Sedin practiced with the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. Afterwards, he told the assembled media that he was feeling well, but would wait until Wednesday to decide whether or not he was fit to play in the Canucks' potential elimination game against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Canucks find themselves starting down the barrel of the gun about two months earlier than expected, in a series that brings back unpleasant memories of last June's Stanley Cup Final against Boston. In an 0-3 hole with just four goals to their credit, Daniel's return could be the spark the Canucks need to turn their fortunes around.
"Art Ross...isn't Art Ross for scoring? Wouldn't that make a significant change if we could put a player like that back in our lineup? So it is going to be make a significant change to theirs, too.
Daniel cautions has he last lost a lot of fitness after four weeks of resting:
I haven't been able to work out so my shape is probably about as low as it has been in five years...We'll see how it goes. Hopefully, I can play on the power play and be a little bit of a difference there. That is my main focus, then if I can chip in five-on-five, I'll take my chances.
Even a little bit of a difference on the power play could be a game-changer for the Canucks. They haven't been short on chances—they've had 14 opportunities in the first three games. But, by virtue of their two short-handed goals against, they also anchor the 16th spot in the playoff man-advantage category.
The Canucks' power play wasn't operating at its best when Daniel was injured back in March, but even if he can take a few shifts, that should give Coach Vigneault a few more options in terms of how he deploys his horses.
Having Daniel back on the bench and on the ice, even in limited situations, would also mean the world to twin brother Henrik. He and Daniel share the most unique chemistry in the league.
The void created by Daniel's injury has not just created a roster hole that Vigneault has needed to plug with a less-talented player. It has also directly impacted Captain Henrik's play. He has still shown some of his play-making mastery but we've also seen him just...pause...as if he's wondering what he should possibly do next? During Game 2 in particular, his defensive play also suffered as he logged an uncharacteristic five giveaways.
Henrik played fantastically two years ago when Daniel missed a significant stretch of the regular season with an ankle injury, and many thought he'd rise to the occasion again. A brain injury is definitely different; it's hard not to wonder if perhaps Henrik has been off his game just that little bit due to concern for his brother's condition.
It's encouraging that Daniel is in L.A., and encouraging that he was allowed to practice and to speak to reporters. But there is still no guarantee that he'll be lacing up the skates before the opening faceoff on Wednesday night. Based on the return protocols of other concussed players like Nicklas Backstrom and Sidney Crosby, Jason Botchford of The Province is skeptical:
Something just feels off about the Daniel Sedin situation. Maybe it’s because he said he hasn't worked out in weeks. Maybe it’s because he’s had two practices since March 21. And only one this week. Can that possibly be enough to ready himself to parachute into a playoff series where the L.A. Kings basically announced today, they’re coming for him?
Daniel's situation is reminiscent of Manny Malhotra's last year, when he returned to play the last six games of the final after having been deemed to be out for the season with a serious eye injury. The Canucks were up 1-0 in their series and Manny rode a burst of adrenaline through Game 2, but began to fade as the series wore on.
For now, the Canucks must take it one game at a time. They need four of those wins to even have a chance at extending their playoff dream. In that respect, it makes sense to try to deploy Daniel in a smart-but-strategic fashion. But when you're talking about a 31-year-old father who's still in the prime of his career, how big of a risk can the Canucks afford to take with his long-term health?