Its hard to quantify how much the Carolina Hurricanes have benefited from having Manny Malhotra this season.
Everyone knew he was very good on face-offs, and he has been terrific.
He brought years of experience and the type of savvy and grittiness to his game the Hurricanes needed.
And if there are any lingering questions about his damaged left eye, about his ability to play, he seemingly is answering them.
The Vancouver Canucks believed it was too dangerous for Malhotra to continue playing last season. They shut him down after nine games, ending his season and leaving his future in doubt.
Malhotra was back in Vancouver, back to face the Canucks on Monday at Rogers Arena with a new team, having quickly earned the respect of his teammates and coaches.
When defenseman Tim Gleason, one of the Canes two alternate captains, recently was sidelined with a lower-body injury, Malhotra was chosen to wear an A on his jersey. Defenseman Justin Faulk served as an alternate captain earlier in the season when Gleason was out with a concussion and Malhotra was not yet with the team, but Malhotra was given the A the second time.
We didnt have Manny back when (Faulk) was wearing it and it has nothing to do with Faulker, Canes coach Kirk Muller said. Theres pressure. People dont realize it but theres responsibility for guys, and we thought Faulker at the time was the right guy and he very well could be right now.
But you shouldnt read too much into it. Manny came on board and its not easy for a guy to jump into a room that quickly and kind of be a kind of spokesperson. I think the guys really embraced him and really wanted it, so we thought he would wear it and take some pressure off some guys and also show we appreciate the leadership he brought in.
In the five games Malhotra was an alternate captain, Faulk had a goal and four assists, his best offensive stretch of the season.
Its a special recognition to earn a letter in this league, Malhotra said. And to do it with a new team means a lot to me, the way the guys have embraced me and taken me into the fold. Ive been able to be myself and say what I want to say when I want to say it, that kind of thing.
The first few games I worked my way in and got a feel for whats going on. But for the most part I feel comfortable saying what I want to say. More so, saying what everybody else sees. Nothing revolutionary. Just speaking my mind.
Gleason returned to the lineup Friday against San Jose and again had the A. Malhotra had a typical Malhotra game 10-3 on face-offs, two blocked shots in almost 12 minutes of ice time as the Canes beat the Sharks 5-3 for a third straight win.
Malhotra once wore an A for the Canucks, but everything changed March 16, 2011, when he was hit in the left eye by a puck during a game against the Colorado Avalanche.
He had eye surgery immediately but returned for the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. The 2011-12 season was a struggle, and the Canucks put Malhotra on injured reserve just nine games into last season.
Malhotra, who had other eye surgeries, wouldnt quit and call it a career. He signed a professional tryout contract with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, worked his way to a one-year contract with the Canes and played his first game for Carolina on Nov.1 against Tampa Bay.
Four days later, Malhotra beat the Philadelphia Flyers with a breakaway goal in overtime. To see the team hug on the ice after his goal was special.
Then to get an A?
I dont think it changes anything of who you are as a player, Malhotra said. If anything the expectations are higher that you try to lead by example and make sure your game is on before you try to talk to other guys about theirs.
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