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Canucks Notebook

Malhotra was crowd-pleaser

Center returns to rave reviews

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / June 5, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — He was given a superstar’s welcome back to the Canucks’ lineup last night.

When center Manny Malhotra took the ice, the fans at Rogers Arena went crazy, chanting his name, waving towels, and cheering him in a way that the 31-year-old forward said made it a special experience.

For a while, it wasn’t known whether Malhotra’s comeback would be in time for any games in the Stanley Cup Final. A serious left eye injury, which he suffered March 16 against the Avalanche, required two surgeries and there was a distinct possibility his career could be over. But Malhotra, with an enormous assist from the Canucks’ doctors and medical staff, took his place with the team and although he eased his way back in during 13 shifts over 7 minutes and 26 seconds of ice time, he made an impression.

Not only did Malhotra win six of his seven faceoffs, he was an example of the type of perseverance it takes to overcome a big-time adversity. He said he was in “sensory overload’’ when he found out after lunch that he would be playing.

“I was excited that I was going to have the chance to play but it was probably the most nervous I’ve been in my entire career,’’ said Malhotra. “Coming to the rink felt really normal, just going through the same game-day routine, but again, the nerves kept getting to me. I was telling the guys right from warm-up it was kind of sensory overload, just the noise, the crowd into it, the towels waving. It was the first time I’d seen a home crowd that excited in the playoffs. I guess I really didn’t settle down until after my first shift. It was obviously a great feeling, the ovation I got, but that kind of put a little more nerves on me, wanting to do something out there and execute. Once I got out there and won my first draw, I felt a little bit better and started to skate.’’

Coach Alain Vigneault said it was great to see him out there.

“It was a real happy moment for our whole group, to be able to put Manny in the lineup and to have him play the way he did,’’ said the coach. “He did exactly what we all expected. He was real good on faceoffs, he was good on the ice. He created a scoring chance. That line [with Jeff Tambellini and Victor Oreskovich] played more minutes than throughout the San Jose series and I think obviously more than in the first game against Boston. I think he’s only going to get better as we more forward.’’

Looks are deceiving If you’re not around the Sedin twins on a regular basis, it stands to reason that it would be hard to tell Henrik from Daniel. When you’re around them every day, it should be easy to discern which is which, right?

Not according to Vigneault.

“It took me three years to tell them apart,’’ said the coach, who was hired in 2006. “I’m not proud of that. The fourth year, when Danny got hurt, he was out of basically my sight for about six weeks. I finally figured out what Hank looked like on a regular basis. Then, when I saw Danny again, I was really embarrassed that I couldn’t tell them apart because they don’t look alike at all. They’ve got two different personalities.

“Danny’s a little bit more quiet. He listens to his brother. Whereas Henrik is obviously a lot more outspoken, he usually speaks for both of them.’’

Controlled response Vigneault said he expected a different kind of game last night than the opener.

Each team was 0 for 6 on the power play and each was called for 14 minutes in penalties in Game 1. Both squads said they can be better in terms of discipline and execution on the man advantage.

And they were. Each team had a power-play goal, but the Bruins had only three opportunities and the Canucks two, totaling 8:43.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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