Ryan Kesler is back.
The Ducks center will make his long-awaited season debut Wednesday against the Vegas Golden Knights after undergoing off-season hip surgery,
Kesler, 33, had to learn to stride again, and he's been skating since last month. Now, the former Selke Trophy winner will suit up and provide the Ducks with stout defense down the middle.
"Being on crutches for 14 weeks was [a challenge]," said Kesler, who has missed 37 games this season. "Learning how to walk again was another. Just skating, getting my stride back. I feel better out there now than I did five years ago."
With captain Ryan Getzlaf back in the fold and producing more than a point per game, and trade acquisition Adam Henrique also scoring, the Ducks boast one of the best center collections in the league.
The Ducks currently inhabit the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and with Kesler in the lineup, they're the healthiest they've been all season.
They're still awaiting the return of Corey Perry, and Patrick Eaves might not play this season as he battles Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
But Kesler’s ability to lock down the opposing team's best player will immediately provide a boost.
"We know it takes players time to get their 'A' game underneath them," coach Randy Caryle said, "but we know one thing about Kes: He'll be ready to battle."