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INJURED CANUCK RETURNS TO ICE

Times wires

VANCOUVER - Manny Malhotra, out since being hit in the left eye by a puck March 16, skated Thursday, but the Canucks quickly dismissed speculation he would return this season.

The center, 30, skated by himself for about 20 minutes and participated in a few drills with teammates. He then watched from the bench, occasionally shouting encouragement and banging his stick against the boards.

"He's a great guy, a great teammate," said goalie Roberto Luongo, whose team opens the West final Sunday against the Red Wings or Sharks. "It's not easy what has happened to him. The boys are happy to have him around."

Malhotra, who declined to comment, has had several surgeries since a pass deflected off the stick of Avs defenseman Erik Johnson into his eye. His status for next season hasn't been determined.

In 72 games, Malhotra had 11 goals and 19 assists, was second in the league with a 61.7 percent faceoff win percentage and was a key part of a penalty kill that led the league. He has been seen around the team for the past few weeks - usually wearing sunglasses - traveling, attending meetings and offering advice.

"Just having him back in the room is special," said wing Raffie Torres, Malhotra's linemate. "He's one of those guys you feel better with and you want to be around. Having him on the ice was a real treat. It put a lot of smiles on guys' faces. Having Manny with a smile on his face is good to see again."

Flyers: Defenseman Chris Pronger, who missed most of the postseason, had surgery for a herniated disc on his spinal cord. The team said the surgery "went very well," and Pronger should be ready for next season.

Broadcaster fired: Damian Goddard, a host for Canada's Rogers Sportsnet, was fired after tweeting about the debate surrounding Rangers wing Sean Avery's support of same-sex marriage. Avery stated his support as part of the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign. Tuesday, Goddard tweeted his support for hockey agent Todd Reynolds, who had tweeted his opposition to Avery, saying: "I completely and whole-heartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage." Sportsnet spokesman Dave Rashford said, "Mr. Goddard was a freelance contractor, and in recent weeks, it had become clear that he is not the right fit for our organization."

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