Owen Nolan has not played an NHL game in about 15 months, but if there is one thing the veteran winger can say about himself, it’s that he is fresh.
The 39-year-old spent last season in the Swiss league, where he played 24 games that were effectively non-contact.
“It wasn’t physical hockey, that’s for sure, so I don’t have bumps and bruises going into this season,” Nolan said. “That part is good.”
Nolan makes his return to the NHL Tuesday as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. He will play with the Canucks squad that entertains the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena. The same two organizations are playing another split-squad game in Calgary.
Nolan, with grey flecks in his beard and hair, will skate the right wing alongside centre Andrew Ebbett and left wing Marco Sturm. Sturm is guaranteed a job when the Canucks break camp, but Nolan and Ebbett are battling for roles between the second and fourth lines.
If Nolan has one advantage, it’s that he has played with Sturm and Ebbett before. Nolan and Sturm were teammates with the San Jose Sharks for six seasons, while the former played with Ebbett as members of the Minnesota Wild in 2009-10.
“It’s great to be back on the ice with high-level professional players,” Nolan said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said that Nolan would have to play the power-forward game that typified his career. That means the former No. 1 overall draft choice has to score and use his 6-foot-1, 205-lb. frame to his advantage.
“I’ve got to play physical and chip in any way I can,” Nolan said. “Any role they want me to play, I’m more than willing to do it.”
Sturm said he would like nothing more than to assist his old friend's bid to make the team, and said he has enjoyed reminiscing about the San Jose days.
“There are lots of guys fighting for jobs, and you want to help them as best as you can,” Sturm said.