Predators' playoff nemesis returns just in time for regular season meeting

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 9:09pm

Just in time.

As if the Nashville Predators did not see enough of Ryan Kesler in last season’s Western Conference semifinal playoff series, they will be just the second team this season to have to face the player known as "Superman."

Kesler missed the Canucks’ first five contests because of offseason hip surgery but returned Tuesday in a 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers and reported no issues related to the injury he sustained late in last season’s playoffs.

The Predators play at Vancouver, 9 p.m. Thursday (SportSouth).

“I felt good out there. Obviously there’s little things that are going to come and I’ve got to stay patient,” Kesler said, according to the Canucks’ website. “It’s all in the process and that’s what I have to focus on and keep getting better every day.”

Kesler played 19:07 and had three shots in the loss to the Rangers.

He was far more menacing last May when the Canucks eliminated the Predators in six games.

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound center had five goals and six assists, which meant he had a hand in all but three of Vancouver’s goals. His three power play goals were more than every other player on both teams combined. Two of his goals were game-winners.

His 11 points were a postseason series record against the Predators and his six assists tied the mark for the most by an opposing player.

The odd part was that he barely showed up on the scoresheet during the 2010-11 regular season. In the four meetings between the teams, Kesler had no goals, no assists and a minus-5 rating.

“I expect to get better every game,” Kesler said Tuesday.

It is difficult to imagine he could be any better than the last time he faced the Predators.