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At the Rink blog

Canucks hope Salo's return gets 'D' back in groove

Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 4:19 PM

By Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

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At the Rink blog
Canucks hope Salo's return gets 'D' back in groove
Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo would prefer to go into the All-Star break feeling good about his health rather than worrying about it.

So the oft-injured blueliner will return from a concussion Tuesday against Edmonton.

The veteran Salo has missed six games and 17 days after getting sent head over heels by a low hit from Boston’s Brad Marchand on Jan. 7. As for the thinking one more missed game would mean an extra week off with the upcoming All Star weekend, the 37-year-old would prefer to go into the break with a game under his belt.

"I just look at like try to get back as soon as I can and get back with the team as soon as I can," Salo said. "There's no better scenario for me. Once I'm ready, I'm ready."

There's little question the Canucks missed Salo's calming influence, despite managing a 3-2-1 record without him. Despite having two extra bodies on the back end, none were comfortable on the right side of Alexander Edler on an important second pairing.

There were long stretches without Salo when they struggled with defensive coverage and getting out of their own end smoothly, leading to the recall of second-year pro Christopher Tanev to play alongside Edler in Saturday's win over San Jose.

"He's able to contribute both offensively and defensively," coach Alain Vigneault said Monday of Salo. "He's such a smart player both with the puck and without the puck that he makes our groove so much better, and that's why he's going to play (against the Oilers)."

The threat of Salo's shot at the point -- once dubbed "The Finnish MacInnis" by Curtis Joseph, he won the Canucks' hardest shot contest Sunday with a 102.7 mile-an-hour blast -- should also help a struggling power play. Still ranked first in the NHL at 23.3 percent, Vancouver has only converted 3 of 21 chances with the man advantage since Salo was hurt -- and two of those goals were scored by the second unit.

"His big shot on the power play really helps our set up," said forward Alexandre Burrows, who filled in for Salo on the point of the top unit. "He's so reliable back there and seems to have that calming influence on everybody, and on the power play you miss that big shot and his poise when dragging that blue line and making plays."

With Salo back, Tanev was sent back to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League -- a short trip since they were playing in nearby Abbotsford -- but Vigneault made it clear he has a future with the big club, possibly by playoff time.

"He confirmed what we knew," Vigneault said of Tanev, who played 29 games as a rookie last season, including five in the playoffs and three in the Stanley Cup Final.

"We know we've got a real strong young man there that is real close to playing in the NHL on a regular basis, and in our minds we think he's got the possibility one day to maybe play in the top-four. But he's only 22. He needs to play a bit more."

Quote of the Day

When I first became captain here, Monsieur Beliveau came to me and said, 'You're going to be fine. You don't have to change, you got selected because of who you are.'

— Saku Koivu on Thursday, recalling what he was told by the late Jean Beliveau when he was named Canadiens captain in 1999
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