Sundin: I want to play as soon as possible Staff

1/4/2009 6:39:04 PM

Mats Sundin was back on the ice with his new teammates on Sunday, taking part in the Vancouver Canucks' morning skate as the squad prepared for tonight's contest against the Dallas Stars.

The former Toronto Maple Leaf captain, who practiced for the first time on Tuesday, said that he's looking forward to the next two days where he'll get a chance to take in full practices.

"I haven't had one practice yet with the whole group and it's going to be two days of real full practices (following tonight's game)," Sundin said. "I think then we can evaluate how everything feels. I hope I'm going to feel great after two practices and obviously I want to play as soon as possible."

There is a real possibility that Sundin will make his debut Thursday when the Canucks host the Edmonton Oilers, but the star forward wants to be sure he's ready for the rigors of the NHL.

"Physically, I think I'm good," he said. "I just want to make sure that I am ready to go when I play. I don't want to play and have some kind of problem as soon as I start."

The Canucks know very well what it means to have a star player come back from injury far too soon.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo has been out of the Canucks' lineup since late November with a groin injury he suffered on Nov. 22. He began skating with the team again Dec. 1 but suffered a setback on Dec. 10. and hasn't been in uniform since. He took part in Tuesday's practice but there is no timetable for the Canuck captain's return.

Teammates raved about Sundin's presence on the ice and were thrilled at the opportunity to play with him.

"He looked great in practice and I'm sure it won't be too long," defeceman Mattias Ohlund said. "He's been one of the best players in the league for a lot of years and guys here are excited."

Sundin ended months of speculation when he agreed Dec. 18 to play the rest of the season in Vancouver. He will earn around US$5.625 million.

Heading into tonight's contest, the Canucks are second in the Northwest Division with a 21-15-4 record for 46 points, fifth in the Western Conference.