Forward Ryan Kesler a surprise starter for Canucks in playoffs

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Kesler took his first shift at about 1:55 into the first period with Alex Burrows and Jeff Cowan.

Kesler had surgery Jan. 29 to repair a torn labrum, the cartilage that lines the socket of the hip. He missed the rest of the regular season, but began skating with the Canucks this week.

On Tuesday Kesler said he didn't expect to play Wednesday, but hoped to return to the lineup sometime in the first round.

While Kesler returned to the lineup the Canucks lost defenceman Brent Sopel with back spasms. Rory Fitzpatrick took his place.

In 48 regular season games Kesler had six goals and 10 assists.

A lot of expectations were heaped on Kesler when he signed a US$1.9-million contract with the Canucks prior to training camp.

Over the summer the Canucks thought they were close to signing the restricted free agent to a two-year deal, but they were caught off guard when former Philadelphia Flyer general manger Bob Clarke put forth a $1.9-million offer sheet.

Vancouver GM Dave Nonis had to either match the offer or lose Kesler and receive a second-round draft pick.

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