LOS ANGELES – The time between skating in the morning session on game day and boarding the bus for Staples Center on Saturday could be an indicator of what will be for the Ducks’ Ryan Kesler over the second half of the season.
Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance.
Visits to the training table might be a daily occurrence for the 33-year-old center as he recaptures his usual highly effective game at both ends of the ice and builds his body up toward playing somewhere at or near the peak of his powers in the postseason.
This is assuming there is one for the Ducks and there’s all sorts of work ahead for the entire group. But they know that getting the Ryan Kesler that is one of the league’s best defensive forwards and a Selke Trophy finalist five times over will be a process and something critical to their playoff hopes.
Major hip surgery and a six-month rehabilitation period will do that to an athlete.
“I think in reality, it’s all going to be about what he tells us he’s capable of doing,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “You can’t expect anybody that misses half a season and he’s going to step in your lineup and be the player that he was when he finished the year. And he was pretty beaten up at the end of the year.”
In the Ducks’ final game before their schedule break, Kesler did not play the second period. Since it was his sixth game back since getting the all clear to return on Dec. 27, there were natural fears that the center was dealing with some aftereffects from the surgery.
Those fears were alleviated when Kesler returned to play the third period against Calgary. But the Ducks are going to be, as Carlyle said, “optimistically cautious” when it comes to managing their do-everything forward. Daily conversations will be part of that.
“There’s three people that are involved in it, and I’ve stated this before,” Carlyle said. “One’s our player. One’s our strength and conditioning. And the other is our medical staff and…