OKLAHOMA CITY — The Manitoba Moose have a major surprise on their final roster for the playoffs.
Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien, who has missed most of this season due to personal issues, has been placed on the Moose reserve list and could be eligible to participate in AHL games down the stretch and into the playoffs. Before becoming an NHL regular, Rypien played 105 games for the Moose between 2005 and 2008.
Each AHL team had to declare its 22-man roster by Monday at 2 p.m. CT. The AHL then puts a tight lid over the lists for a day, checking eligibilities. It released the lists this morning.
Manitoba has eight players on its reserve list, including Rypien. Those players can only get into a game when the team has an emergency, which is three or more of its declared players who are recalled, injured or suspended.
Today, for instance, the Moose are into emergency with six official-roster players absent.
Rypien will speak to reporters this afternoon in Winnipeg, but Moose GM Craig Heisinger said earlier he welcomes this week’s development.
"We’re really excited, just about excited as he is," Heisinger said. "Rick got his pro career started here and we’re excited to give him an opportunity to restart it and help him get back to where he belongs."
Rypien was officially sent to the Moose on a conditioning assignment, which is renewable. That’s not the normal procedure for NHL players sent for conditioning to AHL teams, so some arrangement must be in place with both the NHL and NHLPA.
The 26-year-old Albertan has been in Winnipeg for a couple of days already and has been skating with Moose injured players.
This morning after the Moose skate at Cox Convention Center, team captain Nolan Baumgartner said Rypien’s return to action will be good news all around.
"If he can come back and be effective, well, we know what he can do," Baumgartner said. "We know he’s tough as nails and that he can fight but he’s a pretty good player with good hands and great skating. Getting him on the forecheck, a player like that can help us down the stretch and especially into the playoffs. We need that type of energy guy.
"Obviously he went and got himself straightened out here and he’s ready to come back. I think he’s probably got a clear head and he’s ready to get back at it. I’m sure he’s got his issues worked out and we’re happy to see him back."
Tonight, the Moose meet the Oklahoma City Barons in a game with playoff implications for both sides.
The Moose are still tied for first in the North Division with 74 points. The Barons are seventh in the West, but only three points out of fourth.