Quite the surprise on Tuesday morning at GM Place when injured forward Pavol Demitra arrived in full equipment and practised with his Vancouver Canucks teammates.
Demitra, 35, has yet to play a game since separating his shoulder in the NHL playoffs last season, and undergoing off-season surgery. As recently as last week, the Canucks announced that Demitra had returned to his native Slovakia for treatment.
"It's a disappointing year for me, but I want to get healthy and play as soon as possible," Demitra said on Tuesday. "If everything goes as it's going right now, we probably have three weeks left to go [in rehabilitation]"
Demitra has been reduced to riding stationary bicycles, skating, and running up and down stairs at GM Place. The team has cautioned him against upper-body work until the shoulder is healed, and the winger has been told not to take full slap shots.
The Canucks and Demitra have been targeting a mid-January return ever since some setbacks derailed a comeback earlier in the season. Demitra wants to play on the Slovak Olympic team, and the Canucks could sure use an extra forward, particularly one with offensive credentials, for their 14-game road trip around the two-week Olympic break.
Demitra, who is earning $4-million (U.S.) this season, was placed on the team's long-term injured reserve at the end of training camp, which has provided some salary-cap savings for the Canucks.