Canucks' Brock Boeser returns from hand injury ahead of season opener

Vancouver Canucks' Brock Boeser lines up for a faceoff against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

VANCOUVER -- Brock Boeser will start the season with the Vancouver Canucks after all.

The 25-year-old right-winger returned to full practice with his teammates Tuesday, just over two weeks after the Canucks announced he had undergone surgery for a hand injury suffered at training camp in Whistler, B.C.

At the time, the team said the forward would be out three to four weeks, but head coach Bruce Boudreau said Tuesday that Boeser will be a "game-time decision" when the Canucks open their season against the Oilers in Edmonton on Wednesday.

"Obviously you don't want to be injured. I was looking so much forward to the pre-season and I was feeling good," Boeser said.

"It’s hard not to let it affect you. But I tried to stay positive and did everything I could to get to this point to be able to play (on Wednesday). So that's a plus and I'm looking forward to getting out there.”

Expectations were high for Boeser coming into training camp.

He struggled at times last season, putting up 46 points in 71 games while dealing with the declining health of his father, Duke, who died in May following an extended battle with cancer and Parkinson's disease.

A restricted free agent, he inked a new three-year, US$19.95-million contract at the beginning of July and appeared poised for a big return this fall.

Then, on the final day of training camp, Boeser was hurt.

“It was kind of a weird fluky injury," he said. "I just had the puck, I was trying to cycle it to (J.T. Miller) and someone kind of hit my arm and wrist in a weird direction. I felt that snap or pop, whatever you want to say.

"It's pretty frustrating but I'm just glad that I can be back."

The injury was one the six-foot-one, 208-pound forward was familiar with, having had the same thing happen to his right hand in college.

"I knew kind of the whole of what I had to do and how fast I could be back," he said. "So I did everything I could to be back for this first game."

His teammates weren't expecting the speedy recovery. Defenceman Quinn Hughes said he was surprised when Boeser told him Tuesday that he expects to be in the opening night lineup.

"He only got injured like two weeks ago, I feel," said Hughes, who returned to the ice after missing Monday's practice with a non-COVID illness. "But that just shows how competitive he is and how bad he wants to play. So it's good on him.”

While missing all seven of Vancouver's pre-season games wasn't easy, Boeser doesn't believe the lack of playing time will have an affect his play as the regular-season campaign gets underway.

After all, he's missed exhibition games before due to injuries and contract disputes.

"I've had one pre-season game in the last two years, so I don't know. Maybe pre-season isn't my thing," he said with a smile.

"I’ve just got to go out there, play simple at first, get my legs under me and work as hard as I can and just take it a period at a time.”

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