Canucks forward Chris Higgins
returns to the lineup after missing six games and losing more than 10 pounds because of a bad reaction to medication for back-to-back staph infections. But he won’t be back on the American Express line -- at least to start.
Rather than return to a second line with fellow U.S.-born forwards Ryan Kesler
and David Booth
, a trio that has done well in limited time together, Higgins will debut on a new-look third line with Maxim Lapierre
and Jannik Hansen
How long that lasts, however, remains to be seen.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
has juggled lines consistently while looking to both spark a team that hasn’t played as well as its current 7-0-3 run might indicate -- only two wins since Jan. 7 have come in regulation -- and trying to find a playoff-worthy third line capable of playing more of a checking role.
"If you look at our template from last year, which was pretty effective, we had two offensive lines with (Henrik) Sedin and Ryan Kesler
and a real strong line with Manny (Malhotra) and whoever would play with him," Vigneault said Tuesday, adding he had "a couple more weeks" before the trade deadline to figure it out.
"That enabled me to play them head-to-head against one of the other team's top lines, which freed up either Ryan or Hank to play against a third or fourth line. When we're capable of doing that, it can make it real challenging for the opposition. So we're still trying to figure out where the pieces fit, whether that's the ideal way of doing things or if there is something else out there."
Part of the problem this season is Malhotra has struggled coming back from a career-threatening eye injury that required more surgery and limited offseason training. The other problem is what to do with promising rookie Cody Hodgson
, who added an offensive element as the third line center (tied for fourth among first-year scorers with 31 points and second with 15 goals despite playing just 12:45), but has been spending more time on the fourth line of late.
Here are the rest of the expected lines as the Canucks try to extend a 12-0-2 run against the Avalanche that included a shootout win in Colorado 11 days ago:
- Henrik Sedin
- Alexandre Burrows
- Ryan Kesler
- David Booth
- Maxim Lapierre
- Jannik Hansen
- Cody Hodgson
- Byron Bitz
- Kevin Bieksa
- Sami Salo
- Aaron Rome
is back in goal and hoping to avoid a seventh-straight shootout, a run that includes beating the Avalanche in the post-overtime tie-breaker. Cory Schneider
is the back up.
With Higgins back -- he said he's put gained eight of the 11 or 12 pounds he lost -- the Canucks sent energy forward Mike Duco
back to the American Hockey League. Dale Weise
also returned to practice Tuesday after missing three games after blocking a shot, only to take a puck off the face and be forced to leave early for stitches. He was back on the ice for an optional morning skate Wednesday wearing a visor, but won’t return against the Avalanche.
There hasn’t been much of an update on Keith Ballard
, who will miss a fourth game with what is either a concussion or neck injury. He has been riding an exercise bike the last couple of days.
- Paul Stastny
- Milan Hejduk
- Ryan O'Reilly
- Peter Mueller
- Jay McClement
- Chuck Kobasew
- David Van Der Gulik
- T.J. Galiardi
- Erik Johnson
- Ryan O’Byrne
Shane O’Brien - Tyson Barrie
is back in net after Semyon Varlamov
stopped a career-high 41 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss to St. Louis on Sunday.
Colorado center Matt Duchene
returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since suffering a knee injury Dec. 29 and joined the team for its three-game road trip, but won’t play when it kicks off in Vancouver on Wednesday.
played as a seventh defenseman against the Blues on Sunday, with T.J. Galiardi out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and just 11 forwards in it. But Galiardi will get back into action as the Avalanche try to avoid being shut out by Vancouver for a third time this season after losing 3-0 and 6-0 in their first two matchups. Wilson is expected to sit against the Canucks, allowing rookie Tyson Barrie
to play his fourth NHL game in front of more than a dozen family and friends ferrying over from Vancouver Island.