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At the Rink blog

Michalek back in Coyotes lineup against Canucks

Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 3:50 PM

By Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes remain stuck in a January funk, but they will have all hands on deck for the first time in months when they face the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

Defenseman Zbynek Michalek, out since Dec. 17 with a hip injury, will return to the lineup and give the Coyotes some much-needed stability. Michalek had played in four games since Nov. 14, and his shot-blocking and penalty-killing abilities have been missed by a Phoenix team that has gone 7-12-5 since mid-November after starting the season 14-4-4.

That was about the time Michalek first was injured.

"It's been a very frustrating season for me," Michalek said. "I'm happy to be back. I've been working very hard to get back in the lineup and I hope I can contribute to the lineup."

To make room on the roster the Coyotes place veteran defenseman Rostislav Klesla on waivers for the second time this season.

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett has said Michalek may have come back too soon after the initial injury but Michalek said it's hard to tell when the right time to return is. But he wants to try.

"You're never 100-percent sure until you go in the game," he said. "You can practice all you want and skate all you want on your own but you can't know until you play. It's been tough because we haven't had many team practices with the team playing every other day. I've been skating for 10 days or two weeks on my own and pregame skates and that's not really testing it.

"I feel good enough but that can change after a few games. Hopefully not."

Tippett said Michalek basically talked himself into the lineup.

"We talked [Wednesday] and he wants to give it a try," Tippett said. "He's the type of player who gets in and gives you everything he's got. That's what we're looking for right now, for players to max out and give us everything to help us win. He's a big part of that identity on our team."

Though defending and goaltending have been concerns during this slide, the Phoenix offense also has been struggling. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson's two goals were the only ones the team scored on its just-completed two-game road trip.

The Canucks have one win in the past eight games (1-4-3) and are coming off a 9-1 loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

Vancouver didn't skate Thursday but at least one lineup change could be coming. Forward Kellan Lain was called up from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League on Wednesday.

Here are the projected lineups:

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Zac Dalpe

Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Zack Kassian

Tom Sestito - Brad Richardson - Jannik Hansen

David Booth - Mike Santorelli - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev

Kevin Bieksa - Alexander Edler

Jason Garrison - Yannick Weber

Eddie Lack

Joacim Eriksson

Scratched: Kellan Lain

Injured: Alexandre Burrows (broken jaw), Roberto Luongo (ankle)

COYOTES

Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker

Shane Doan - Mike Ribeiro - David Moss

Tim Kennedy - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata

Rob Klinkhammer - Jeff Halpern - Jordan Szwarz

Keith Yandle - Michael Stone

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Derek Morris

David Schlemko - Zbynek Michalek

Mike Smith

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Kyle Chipchura, Rostislav Klesla

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery