Chris Higgins is shown in a NHL handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, NHL
VANCOUVER - Left-winger Chris Higgins was set to return to the Vancouver Canucks lineup Monday as they faced the San Jose Sharks after battling a mysterious hand infection.
"It feels good," Higgins told reporters after participating in an optional morning skate with a few teammates. "I spent (a) couple days in hospital trying to get my energy back up."
Higgins was in hospital last week after his hand swelled up Tuesday morning and forced him to miss the club's three-game California road trip. The American spent two nights receiving fluids intravenously in a bid to conquer the ailment, which was reportedly linked to a foot problem—previously described as a staph infection—that kept him out of two games earlier this month.
Higgins said doctors are still awaiting the latest test results.
"I lost a little bit of weight when I was in the hospital, so I'm trying to eat a lot and rest a little bit," he said. "It took a lot out of me."
The foot condition, which also involved severe swelling, was a recurrence of a problem he experienced last season while with the Florida Panthers. Monday's workout was his second with the club in as many days.
Assistant coach Rick Bowness was impressed with what he saw from the 28-year-old native of Smithtown, N.Y., who has enjoyed a career renaissance since joining the Canucks at the NHL trade deadline last spring.
"He looked good in practice (Sunday)," said Bowness. "I didn't watch him skate (Monday) morning. It just was a light skate for him."
Meanwhile, left-winger, David Booth, recovering from a knee injury suffered Dec. 4 against Colorado, took part in the skate. His recovery was expected to take four-to-six weeks.
He's now in the fourth week of rehabilitation and it appears he won't need the full six.
"Being off for three weeks or whatever it was, it feels like three months," said Booth. "But it's slowly coming.
"I've done a lot off the ice, but I prefer myself to be on the ice."
He credits his relatively quick recovery to not trying to do too much too soon. His off-ice workout regimen still excludes running because of potential damage to the knee.
Booth was injured when he took a knee from Colorado centre Kevin Porter, who received a four-game suspension for the infraction. Ironically, Booth and Porter are both Detroit natives, and the Canuck also played a season with the Avalanche centre's brother at Michigan State.
Booth and Porter also often played against each other while the latter was with the University of Michigan.
Porter apologized to Booth via text message. Booth accepted it, convinced Porter was not deliberately trying to injure him.
Booth hopes to be back in the lineup by Jan. 9 when Vancouver visits the Panthers.
"I really want to play in that," said Booth, adding he's been targeting that date since being traded to the Canucks in October.
Prior to his injury, Booth had come on strong after struggling following the first trade of his career. He had four points (two goals, two assists) in the three games before he was hurt.
"I thought I was playing better as every game went on," he said. "Now, it's just a process of getting back there."
Defenceman Aaron Rome, out with a broken thumb suffered Dec. 15 against Carolina, also skated. But he is not expected to return anytime soon.
The 28-year-old Nebitt, Man., native has missed eight games in his second lengthy injury stint this season. The broken thumb occurred after he suffered a broken finger in the preseason that forced him to miss the club's first 14 games.
When the stay-at-home defenceman did play, he produced three goals and three assists, both career highs.
"They're just two freak accidents where I got hit on the meat of the glove where there is lots of padding," said Rome. "It's just part of the game.
"Hopefully, I get some bounces in the new year."
Bowness said it's positive Rome has returned to practice. But the defenceman is still limited in the type of shots he can take.
"He's taking some wrist shots," said Bowness. "He's not taking any slapshots.
"I don't know what timeline you put on him, but he's on the ice."
NOTES: With Higgins returning, recent minor-league callup Mark Mancari was scratched. ... The Sharks did not skate Monday morning because the game was schedule two hours earlier than usual.