Everybody, including Manny Malhotra himself, had to think his season was over. Back in mid-March, the Vancouver Canucks forward took a puck off the eye in a game against the Colorado Avalanche, and several surgeries later, he's lucky to even have full vision in that eye and a hockey career that can continue.
It was a horrifying injury, and nobody even took a second to think that'd he'd be back this season.
Well, until today. According to Bob McKenzie at TSN, doctors have cleared Malhotra for contact, a major step in a potential return to game action during the Stanley Cup Finals. It doesn't mean that he'll play next Wednesday in Game 1 against either the Tampa Bay Lightning or Boston Bruins, but it does mean it's possible.
The next step for Malhotra is joining his teammates in practice. Now that he can take contact, he'll test himself to see if he's ready for postseason action. There are obviously a ton of questions when a player tries to return from such a severe injury, but if the Canucks so get a capable Malhotra back, their position as favorites in the Stanley Cup Finals will rise even higher.
He's a penalty-killing master and a face-off God, to put things lightly, and just for those two reasons alone, he's more than valuable for the Canucks. We'll see what happens.
The Stanley Cup Finals kick off next week in Vancouver, as the Canucks host either the Boston Bruins orTampa Bay Lightning. For coverage on the Finals, stick with our Stanley Cup Finals hub and our Canucks blog, Nucks Misconduct. For coverage on Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, check out Bruins vs. Lightning hub.