- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2011

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (AP) - Canucks center Manny Malhotra will decide shortly before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals whether he’s ready to return from a career-threatening eye injury to play against the Boston Bruins.

Almost three months since a deflected puck hit him in his left eye, Malhotra upgraded his status to game-time decision after practicing for a second straight day.

“I feel real good,” Malhotra said following Saturday’s morning skate. “I felt good yesterday skating, felt good this morning, so hopefully it will continue throughout the day.”

Malhotra has had at least two major surgeries since being injured during a game March 16. He had been day to day after being cleared for contact last Friday. He practiced for three days, but was absent Tuesday through Thursday, leading to speculation he’d suffered a setback before he returned to the ice Friday.

Coach Alain Vigneault made it clear Malhotra would not return to his old spot as a shutdown center on the third line. But given that Vancouver’s fourth line played a handful of shifts in the Canucks’ 1-0 win in Game 1 Wednesday, it’s easy to envision him filling a role there.

Vigneault indicated Malhotra, who was second in the NHL on face-offs at 61.7 percent, also might take key draws in the defensive zone and could resume his role on the penalty kill.

“Being good in the circle is going to be a big part of what I do,” Malhotra said. “It’s always tough to say how your legs are going to be responding in a game. Early on I think the things we’re going to talk about if I do go is just simplicity, getting my feet moving, getting pucks in, making smart decisions with the puck and keeping things real basic right now.”

As for his emotions about coming back to such a big stage after almost losing his eye and his hockey career, Malhotra insisted he would keep them in check.

“For me it will obviously be a very touching moment,” he said. “But at same time once the puck drops I’ve got to bring it back to basics.”

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