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Canucks fans are getting anxious for Antoine Roussel to finally make his return to the lineup, and with good reason.

Roussel was fifth in team scoring last season, he played well with almost any linemates and his energy is a boon to the team both on and off the ice. Roussel suffered a major knee injury on March 13th of last season and has just begun his conditioning stint with the Utica Comets.

Last year, Antoine Roussel made some of the nicest passes we saw from a Canucks forward all season long. He works well with players like Jake Virtanen and Bo Horvat because he knows that those players possess a ton of speed and if he puts the puck in the right spot his speedy teammates can get their stick on the puck and get it past opposing goaltenders.

Roussel was at his most effective when playing alongside Bo Horvat. The two players were both outscored and outshot when they were playing away from each other, but found success during their 268 minutes of time together at 5-on-5.

Antoine Roussel is current on a conditioning sting with the Canucks AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. Returning from a significant knee injury like a torn ACL is a tough task for even the most elite athlete. Athletes have to work their tails off to get back to full health during an intensive rehabilitation program, meaning Roussel would likely have to train very hard to make his return as early as December 3rd. The Canucks next game after that is Saturday December 7th, which seems like a more reasonable expectation for when Roussel could make his season debut.

So I’ve been putting my “Comets Chris” hat this week and taking a closer look at Antoine Roussel and how he looks skating and battling. Here are a few examples of what I believe looks to be a very healthy Antoine Roussel.

Roussel gets in on the forecheck with what look to be some very powerful strides.

Here’s Roussel skating hard to put pressure on the defenceman. Just watching that kind of effort made me remember how much I like Antoine Roussel in this Canucks lineup. He’s likely not getting that puck but his motor and aggression get him close enough to potentially impact the defenceman’s pass.

Roussel fires across the zone with another powerful stride as he tries to support Carter Camper on the fast break.

It doesn’t surprise me that Roussel looks like he has his stride back. A torn ACL used to be the kiss of death for an athlete, causing many to lose trust in their own body, and never quite be the same as a result. These days, however, an ACL tear is simply another injury. It  takes a long time to recover from, but doesn’t spell the end of a player’s career the way it once did thanks to advances in rehabilitation that have made the return to 100% very possible. (Anyone who took Adrian Peterson in fantasy football the year when he came back from an ACL tear can attest to this.)

I’m excited to have Roussel back in the Canucks lineup. He creates havoc on the forecheck and gets involved emotionally in every single game. Last year some of his best games came when he played alongside Bo Horvat. I think that the trio of JT Miller, Bo Horvat and Antoine Roussel would be one hell of a second line to watch. Horvat could become a very effective two way centre with the return of some healthy bodies and I’m ready to see some slick saucers land on his stick courtesy of a healthy Antoine Roussel.