Kesler returns to Vancouver as Ducks battle Canucks

(SportsNetwork.com) - Ryan Kesler should already be motivated on Thursday night given that his Anaheim Ducks have lost six of their last seven games. However, a pending reaction from the Vancouver crowd could give him some extra juice.

Kesler makes his return to Vancouver on Thursday night as the Ducks try to get on track against the Canucks.

The 30-year-old was a key contributor for the Canucks after they selected him 23rd overall in the 2003 draft. In 655 career games with the franchise, he had 182 goals and 211 assists while also winning the Selke Trophy in 2011.

The center also impressed with seven goals and 19 points in 25 playoff games in 2011, when Vancouver made a run to the Cup Finals and lost to Boston in seven games.

After Vancouver failed to make the playoffs last season following two straight first-round exits, Kesler was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks on June 27 along with a third-round pick in 2015 for forward Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa and a first and third-round selection in 2014.

"Talking with (general manager) Jim (Benning) and (president of hockey operations) Trevor (Linden) over the summer, I just think we decided that it was time to move on," Kesler said. "As hard of a decision that it was to waive my no-trade clause, it was something that had to be done."

While Kesler is visiting Vancouver for the first time, it won't be the first time he faces the Canucks. Anaheim played host to Vancouver on Nov. 9 and lost 2-1 in a shootout, with Bonino scoring the lone tally of the tiebreaker.

Kesler had a chance to extend the shootout, but his shot rang off the post, a turn of events that probably would have delighted the Vancouver crowd had the game taken place at Rogers Arena.

"Hopefully they appreciated the 11 years that I played here, and remember the good times. I'm hoping for a warm reception, but if not, it's part of the game," Kesler said of his return.

"It's going to be an emotional night for me, but if they boo me, it'll probably jack me up even more. It's going to be fun (Thursday). It's going to be an intense night, and I'm looking forward to it."

Kesler's Ducks are just 1-1-5 in their last seven games and struggled in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames.

The Flames scored three straight third-period goals to take a lead, but Kyle Palmieri tied the game in regulation on a power-play tally.

Sean Monahan scored for the Flames to give his club a 2-1 edge in the shootout and Corey Perry misfired in the Ducks' last attempt.

Sami Vatanen had a goal with two assists and Frederik Andersen stopped 16 shots.

"It's inexcusable. We all need to get in there and have a couple of good shifts to start the third," said Palmieri. "We knew they were going to come hard. We need to be ready to start the third period."

Anaheim is expected to get a pair of players back in the lineup tonight. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin is set to return from a five-game absence caused by the mumps, while forward Devante Smith-Pelly will play for the first time in four games due to a shoulder issue.

The Canucks, meanwhile, have won five of seven and nine of their last 12 games after posting a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

Yannick Weber had the go-ahead goal with 8:28 left in the game, while Radim Vrbata scored twice.

Ryan Miller allowed four goals on 32 shots and also saw the Oilers have a would-be tying goal waived off in the final seconds after it was ruled that David Perron kicked it in with his skate.

"That's a game that the coaches probably didn't like, but we got two points," Vrbata said."

Eddie Lack could get the start for the Canucks tonight and is 1-4-1 with a 3.24 goals against average and .885 save percentage lifetime versus the Ducks.

Andersen is 3-0-1 with a 0.98 GAA and .970 save percentage against the Canucks.

Vancouver's victory earlier this month over Anaheim snapped a six-game series losing streak and the club has dropped four straight and six of the past seven at home versus the Ducks.