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Ryan Kesler Gradually Working His Way Back

02/25/2013, 10:15am EST
By John Tranchina

The bar is set pretty high for Ryan Kesler.
 
Following off-season surgeries on his shoulder and wrist, the 28-year-old from the Detroit suburb of Livonia rehabilitated throughout the summer and the NHL lockout and finally returned to the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup on Feb. 15. And while it is clear that he is not yet back to performing at his customary level, he has still impressed, scoring one goal and four points through his first six games.
 
For most players, those numbers would qualify as a solid start, but for Kesler, it signals he still has plenty of room for improvement.
 
“It’s a work in progress,” said Kesler, who also recorded a minus-4 plus/minus rating. “Obviously, every game it’s feeling better for me. I think someone told me I went like 300 days between games — not being able to skate, be in physical contact for that long, so it’s been tough, but the guys around me have been really supportive. It’s a learning curve.”
 
"He’s coming along,” added Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “It took a lot of our veteran players about nine to 10 games to find their game. Ryan’s worked extremely hard, and we’re going to give him time to find his game like we gave everybody else the time.”
 
But even adding a not-quite-100-percent Kesler has been beneficial to the Northwest Division-leading Canucks.
 
“He’s a big piece of their team, that’s for sure,” said Dallas Stars defenseman Aaron Rome, who spent the previous three seasons as Kesler’s teammate in Vancouver. “They have other big pieces over there, but he just adds another dimension to their team. He’s big, strong, he’s fast, he can score. He has an unbelievable net-front presence and a right-handed shot on their power play, so when they add a guy like that, it just makes it so much tougher.”
 
Further demonstrating Kesler’s all-around positive impact is the fact that the center has won an impressive 55.6 percent of his face-offs so far this season (going 64-51). That should come as no surprise, considering Kesler finished in the NHL’s top 25 for each of the previous five seasons, with a high of seventh in 2010-11 at 57.4 percent. Also, despite the physical ailments he’s overcoming, the 6-foot-2, 202-pound Kesler has delivered nine hits and blocked seven shots.
 
But Kesler’s influence on the Canucks goes beyond mere statistics. Now in his ninth NHL season since Vancouver drafted him in the first round (23rd overall) in 2003, Kesler has grown into a respected team leader.
 
“I think everyone knows what kind of leader he is,” said Canucks forward David Booth, who has played with and against Kesler since the two were kids in the Detroit area, including two seasons as teammates with the U.S. National Team Development Program. “He just brings his personality into it, and I think the best leaders do that — they’re just who they are. He doesn’t try to be somebody he’s not, and I think that’s what makes him a good leader, just being himself.”
 
Kesler himself points out that he learned what makes an effective leader by observing several former Canuck luminaries during his earlier years.
 
“I think you learn from leaders before you. Coming into the league, we had a great captain in Markus Nasland, we had Trevor Linden, we had Brendan Morrison and really for me, I didn’t say much,” said Kesler, who spent the 2002-03 season at Ohio State University before turning pro. “I just sat back and watched, and you learn and you see how those guys act day-in and day-out. It was a learning curve for me, but as you get more comfortable and your role grows, you become a little more comfortable as a leader.”
 
A five-time 20-goal scorer, Kesler’s track record as a winner proves that his methods are working. In addition to being a key member of the first American team to win the gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2004, Kesler has helped the Canucks win two President’s Trophies and advance to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals by contributing seven goals and 19 points in 25 playoff games.
 
But it was his experience helping the U.S. win silver at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games that stands out as the biggest highlight. That only makes him look forward more to the possibility of doing it again in 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
 
“It was amazing, being in Vancouver, the place where I play, having my family, like 17 people there and the experience they got to have because they could afford it and experience it with me,” said Kesler, who scored two goals in six Olympic contests in 2010. “Just being in the Olympics was an unbelievable feeling. Obviously, you’re hopeful [about playing in Sochi]. I want to play; everybody wants to play in that. It’s a special time of year — two weeks and the best team wins.”
 
A full year before that epic confrontation unfolds in Sochi, Kesler continues to edge back towards the high standards he’s already established.
 
“My game’s coming around,” Kesler said. “I’ve felt glimpses like I was coming into my own again. Obviously, you got to do it shift after shift, but I think consistency and just feeling comfortable out there is good.”
 
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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TIER I GIRLS - Marlborough, MA
Michael Bontatibus (Hooksett, NH)
Brea Boone (San Clemente, CA)
Jennifer Cameron (Hollywood, FL)
Kelly Cooke (Andover, MA)
Stephen Drain (Milton, MA)
Jennifer Glynn (Leominster, MA)
Michael Goodwin (Upton, MA)
Melanie Gotsdiner (Plano, TX)
Katie Guay (Mansfield, MA)
Bryan Harrington (Franklin, MA)
Samantha Hiller (Boulder, CO)
Jamie Huntley (La Jolla, CA)
Rachel Hutchinson (Brewster, MA)
Ted Kellar (Cheshire, MA)
Adam Kiel (Milford, MA)
Jessica Leclerc (Old Orchard Beach, ME)
Matthew Lowe (Hudson, MA)
Cameron Lynch (Somerville, MA)
Kyle McQuoid (Clinton, MA)
Brian Milliken (Leominster, MA)
Jarred Mitrano (Haverhill, MA)
Kristin Moore (Salt Lake City, UT)
Crystalle Parent (Londonderry, NH)
Chelsea Rapin (Shelburne, VT)
Chris Riley (Sterling, MA)
Jill Salvo (Long Beach, CA)
George Soares (Cotuit, MA)
Jackie Spresser (Aurora, CO)
Brienne Stewart (Tulalip, WA)
Melissa Szkola (Clinton Township, MI)
Bridget Waitkus (Attleboro, MA)
Joshua Wang (Cambridge, MA)
Carol Weston (Bristol, VT)
Taylor Willert (Sun Prairie, WI)
Mackenzie Williams (Rome, NY)

TIER II GIRLS - Amherst, NY
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Kayleigh Bowers (Dallas, TX)
Tony Brovata (Sanborn, NY)
Francesca Clemente (Brooklyn, NY)
Samuel Cucinotta (Kenmore, NY)
Nicole Davis (Crystal Lake, IL)
Kevin Frankowski (Depew, NY)
Michael Fusani (Depew, NY)
Kendall Hanley (Allen, TX)
Daniel Iulianello (Webster, NY)
Katrina Kleinschmit (East Lansing, MI)
Amy Loughman (Teaneck, NJ)
Janine Martinez (Lovonia, MI)
Ceci Morris (Hoffman Estates, IL)
Peter Nigrelli (Buffalo, NY)
Andrew Nosek (Buffalo, NY)
David Panek (Buffalo, NY)
Jodi Price (Arkport, NY)
John Rivera (Farmington, NY)
William Robins (North Tonawanda, NY)
Stefanie Schmitz (Farmington, MN)
Scott Smith (Webster, NY)
Sara Strong (Grand Rapids, MI)
Randy Szukala (North Tonawanda, NY)
Alex Valvo (East Aurora, NY)
Madeleine Weeks (Philadelphia, PA)

TIER I YOUTH - Green Bay, WI
Travis Ahlberg (Birchwood, WI)
James Blankenship (Rhinelander, WI)
Scott Bokal (Manchester, MO)
Gerald Borman (Eagan, MN)
Denny Bourgoin (Lewiston, ME)
William Conybear (Madison, WI)
Nick Cristan (Hudson, WI)
Robert Dawson (Winfield, IL)
Shane Dillon (Saumico, WI)
Kyle Domin (Bozeman, MT)
Anthony Guzzo (Spokane, WA)
Jonathan Haas (Fitchburg, WI)
Andrew Hudson (Manchester, MO)
Jeff Klein (Denver, CO)
Michael Lacina (Omaha, NE)
Kyle Larson (West Liberty, IA)
Travis Larson (West Liberty, IA)
John Melancon (Lyman, ME)
Gabriel O'Lena (Soldotna, AK)
Karl Olm (Madison, WI)
Robert Pagani (Beecher, IL)
Richard Palo (Foristell, MO)
Dylan Peper (Arvada, CO)
Curt Peterson (Aldie, VA)
Daniel Rack (Glendale Heights, IL)
Brad Roethlisberger (Green Bay, WI)
Brandon Schroder (Wausau, WI)
Jayson Selbert (Cheektowaga, NY)
Adam Shadiow (Saginaw, MN)
James (Cody) Smith (Murfreesboro, TN)
Matthew Spaeth (Hillsboro, MO)
Zane Stout (Irwin, PA)
Mason Strom (Hoffman Estates, IL)
Todd Turner (Chicago, IL)
Michael Verdonck (Chicago, IL)
Alex Vigh (Grosse Ile, MI)
Nicholas West (Orland Park, IL)

TIER II 14 & UNDER - Hackensack, NJ
David Aiello (Newtown, PA)
Carl Barling (Sparta, NJ)
Robert Backl (St. Joseph, MN)
Danielle Bugge (West Windsor, NJ)
Fred Cleck (Annville, PA)
Paul Crosta (Morris Plains, NJ)
Morgen Dautrich (Nazareth, PA)
Michael Dimino (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Thomas Dugan Jr. (North Brunswick, NJ)
Jon Hayes (Atco, NJ)
Blake Hishmeh (Kinnelon, NJ)
Louis Imbriani (Anchorage, AK)
Alexios Karabetsos (Troy, MI)
Isaac Kessler (Ambler, PA)
Brian McCullough (Morton, PA)
Eric Michaels (Philadelphia, PA)
Robert Navickas (Morton, PA)
Donald Nichols (Dover, NJ)
Michael Oreskovich (West Deptford, NJ)
John Patenaude (Glenside, PA)
Ryan Pergola (Nutley, NJ)
Sean Perry (Kunkletown, PA)
Duncan Ryhorchuk (Hanover, MN)
Samuel Schildkraut (Media, PA)
John Thompson (Lancaster, PA)
Dalton Tice (Reading, PA)
Kevin Vena (Perkiomenville, PA)
Brett Wallen (Williamstown, NJ)
Eric Workman (Lakeville, MN)

TIER II 16 & UNDER - Reston, VA
Justin Baker (Alexandria, VA)
John Canoy (Fairbanks, AK)
Marcus Currie (Laurel, MD)
Armand DeForest (Phoenix, AZ)
Christopher Dietz (Washington, DC)
Colin Gates (Fairfax, VA)
Alex Germany-Wald (Washington, DC)
Logan Gruhl (North Chesterfield, VA)
Brian Jansen (Inver Grove Heights, MN)
Jason Johnson (Lakeville, MN)
Ronald Johnson (Lake Wylie, SC)
Richard Jondo (Baltimore, MD)
Richard Kuerston (Atlanta, GA)
Gary Labelle (Arlington, VA)
Jason Lortie (Coral Springs, FL)
Michael Lucas (North Royalton, OH)
Jeremy Malin (Aldie, VA)
Jason Messimore (Knoxville, TN)
Bob Nolan (Laurel, MD)
Peter Olson (Essex Junction, VT)
Thomas Parynik (Chesterfield, VA)
Josh Pergande (Reston, VA)
Matt Pettigrew (Sterling, VA)
Richard Robichaud (Lorton, VA)
Scott Sivulich (Wasilla, AK)
Derek Vandenberg (Arvada, CO)
Matthew VanHorne (Manassas, VA)
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TIER II 18 & UNDER - Wayne, NJ
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David Brown (Neptune, NJ)
Michael Dalton (Camden, NJ)
Timothy Foreman (Hershey, PA)
Blaine Forkell (Souderton, PA)
Michael Forys (Cottage Grove, MN)
Timothy Funk (Rye, NH)
Jeff Greenstein (Potomac, MD)
Colin Haas (Plano, TX)
Patrick Hanrahan (Hatfield, PA)
Michael Kubec (Mentor, OH)
Benedict Manderachi (Douglassville, PA)
Jason Mandroc (Downingtown, PA)
David Maxfield (Rochester, NH)
Tom McCullough (Conshohocken, PA)
Chris McPhee (Kearns, UT)
Justin Nicol (Lake Stevens, WA)
Robert Perry (Kunkletown, PA)
Steven Sailor (Sewell, NJ)
Daniel Shilkitus (Landenberg, PA)
Chris Shoppell (Fort Wayne, IN)
Gary Shpungin (Wayne, NJ)
Andrew Suhovic (Bayonne, NJ)
Jason Theodore (North Wales, PA)
Dustin Thompson (Missoula, MT)
Brandon Uzarek (Evansville, IN)
David Zulla (Roebling, NJ)
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Larry Clark Jr. (Pekin, IL)
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Russell Coll (Olathe, KS)
Joshua Eiden (Saint Bonafacius, MN)
Terry Farrar (Saint Charles, MO)
Brian Fisher (Aurora, IL)
Tim Frazee (Fairfax, IA)
Colin Gruenke (Northbrook, IL)
Brian Hankes (Wheaton, IL)
Jeff Hirsch (Woodstock, IL)
Benton Kooman (O'Fallon, MO)
Robert Lowth (Rolling Meadows, IL)
Josh Lupinek (Minnetonka, MN)
Nicholas Matarazzi (Saint Louis, MO)
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Arnold Pizzutelli (Overland Park, KS)
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Colin Snodgrass (Missoula, MT)
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William Valiant (Corvallis, OR)

SENIOR WOMEN - Marlborough, MA
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Rebecca Caron (Belmont, NH)
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Donald Cowern Jr. (Ashland, MA)
Keisha Dunlevy (Worthington, MA)
Mary Frey (Edina, MN)
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Jamie Lalos (Billerica, MA)
Michelle Lichterman (Mount Prospect, IL)
Paul Maguire (Natick, MA)
Bryan McKay (Groton, MA)
Kristin Moran (Sartell, MN0
Ken Murphy (Melrose, MA)
Kevin Nelson (Billerica, MA)
Stephen Phaneuf (Hudson, MA)
Colleen Reddy (Salisbury, MA)
James Riley (Lancaster, MA)
Randy Silveira (Seekonk, MA)
Cory Talbott (Edgewater, MD)
James Ternullo (Billerica, MA)
Cody Tremblay (Brighton, MA)
Edward Vahey (Wellesley, MA)
Andrea Weissman (South Grafton, MA)

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