VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Vancouver Canucks center Manny Malhotra was cleared on Friday to join his team mates in some light contact at practice, raising the prospect he could make an unlikely return for the Stanley Cup finals
Malhotra, who had been expected to miss the rest of the season after having eye surgery in March, wore a visor on Friday as he made his return to the ice, NHL.com reported.
"He's progressed really well, but there's a time frame in all of this where it isn't about progressing, it's just stability over time," Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis said.
"He's gone through that now and everything looks really good."
Malhotra, 31, has not competed in the league since March 16 when a puck deflected off an opponent's stick and into his eye during a game against Colorado.
At that time, the Canucks said Malhotra, who had 30 points while playing on the team's shutdown third line, would not return for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs.
Since that assessment was made, a great deal has changed according to Gillis.
"There were a number of reasons behind that, one is privacy issues, he had a severe injury and he's done remarkably well (since)," Gillis said.
"He's come through major surgery and we were told all the downsides, and he hasn't experienced any of it."
However, Gillis said there was no specific timetable for Malhotra's return to the Vancouver lineup and he was expected to undergo more assessments during the finals series.
"The doctors need to be comfortable where he is stable, his eye is stable and absolutely no further damage could ever occur by him playing hockey," Gillis added.
The Canucks reached the Stanley Cup finals by beating the San Jose Sharks in five games and will take on either Boston or Tampa Bay in the championship series starting on Wednesday in Vancouver.
(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Julian Linden)