Steve Bernier wants to make up for lost time in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The burly Vancouver Canucks winger was limited to 59 games during the 2009-10 NHL regular season as he wrestled with injuries instead of opponents.
He will head into Thursday's opening round game against the Los Angeles Kings with just three recent games under his belt after recovering from a sports hernia that bothered him for much of the season and eventually required surgery.
"Obviously, it's not easy coming back and being 100 per cent," says Bernier, who missed 17 games between March and early April. "But I've been working on it off the ice, in the gym. I've been working on it in practice to make sure that my game is going to be as ready as possible for the playoffs.... I just want to do it and, hopefully, I'm going to be having some luck on my side."
While the Canucks have been more concerned about their decimated defence corps lately, a healthier Bernier could be a bonus because he does score on occasion and he plays a physical game that is accentuated in the post-season.
"Obviouly, my role is going to be to create space," says Bernier, a six-foot-two Quebec City native. "I'm a big body."
"He brings a physical dimension that I think we need in the playoffs," adds Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "Hopefully, he'll find his rhythm here."
At the start of the season, a slimmed-down Bernier hoped to make amends for an inconsistent inaugural campaign with the Canucks in 2008-09, when he did not pan out as a linemate for Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
He lurched his way to 11 goals and 11 assists, but despite his lack of offence he was still a regular on the power play and helped it rank among the top units in the league. Although he might not get the call to play along the Sedins anymore on the first power play unit, he can still add some muscle to a second unit, if necessary, and he can kill penalties.
Vancouver's PK unit struggled most of the season and needs all the help it can get now that centre Ryan Johnson is sidelined for at least the first round with a broken foot.
Bernier produced two goals and two assists in 10 playoffs games with the Canucks last year, when they were eliminated by Chicago. His most productive postseason came as a rookie with the San Jose Sharks in 2005-06, when he collected six points in 11 games.
But he is not expecting too much of himself as he gets back in the swing of things.
"It's tough mentally and tough to get back into shape," says Bernier. "You don't need to want too much. You just need to do your job on the ice and be at the right place at the right moment. You never know what can happen."
He hopes to join the fraternity of players who struggle in the regular-season but elevate their game and shine during the playoffs. Contending the playoffs are all about one-on-one battles, he says his right place will be near the net.
"If you're around the net more, good things happen," says Bernier. "Those players that become unsung heroes, that's what they're doing. They're hanging out around the net and shots are coming (in). Sometimes, it's just being at the right place at the right time."