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At the Rink: Coyotes at Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks realize they need an improved power play to continue a push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But ending a nine-game drought Monday against the Arizona Coyotes (10 p.m. ET; FS-A, SNP) will be harder with the Coyotes getting center Boyd Gordon back from injury.

The Canucks are 0-for-20 on the power play since Dec. 13. They’ve gone 4-1-1 in the past six games despite the slump. But with opposing defenses tightening as the season goes on, captain Henrik Sedin said it can't continue.

"We've been fortunate to play pretty good 5-on-5 and winning games that way," he said. "But if our power play gets going too I think we'll be more successful."

The Coyotes' penalty kill comes into Vancouver ranked 21st in the NHL at 79.0 percent and has given up eight goals on 22 shorthanded situations in the past six games. But Gordon should boost that unit with his return from a four-game absence because of a head injury.

Gordon leads the Coyotes' regular centers on faceoffs at 56.7 percent and should take some pressure off Antoine Vermette and Brad Richardson, who took 64 percent of the faceoffs in a 4-3 shootout loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

"Gordon gives you another guy that can win faceoffs, especially on the right side in our zone. So he'll help take some extra minutes away from those guys and hopefully they can stay fresher," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He's just a solid player."

Gordon, who was injured during a Dec. 26 games against the Los Angeles Kings, leads Arizona forwards in shorthanded ice time at 2:52 per game.

"We've been pretty strong on draws most of the year; it's big on the penalty kill," Gordon said. "The layoff wasn't too long so hopefully I can jump back into it and feel all right."

Tippett also is looking forward to the return of center Martin Hanzal, who has 20 points in 26 games while winning 54.5 percent of his faceoffs this season. Hanzal is skating after missing 10 of the past 11 games because of a lower body injury and could return when the Coyotes finish a three-game road trip against the Calgary Flames on Thursday. But he won't play against Vancouver, nor will defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who is listed as day-to-day because of an upper body injury from the loss against the Oilers.

The absence of Michalek could make it a little easier for the Canucks to fix their recent scoring problems at even strength. They have four goals in regulation in their past four games and coach Willie Desjardins pointed out the lack of chances in close.

"We have to get more guys going there [the net] and throwing pucks there too," Sedin said. "We simplified our defensive game. We've got to simplify our offensive game too."

Here are the projected lineups:

COYOTES

Max Domi - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker

Tobias Rieder - Laurent Dauphin - Anthony Duclair

Jordan Martinook - Brad Richardson - Shane Doan

Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Viktor Tikhonov

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Connor Murphy

Klas Dahlbeck - Stefan Elliott

Nicklas Grossman - Michael Stone

Louis Domingue

Anders Lindback

Injured: Zbynek Michalek (upper body), Martin Hanzal (lower body), Mike Smith (abdominal surgery), Joe Vitale (fractured orbital bone)

Scratched: Steve Downie, John Scott

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Chris Higgins - Bo Horvat - Radim Vrbata

Alexandre Burrows - Jared McCann - Linden Vey

Brandon Prust - Adam Cracknell - Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Alex Biega - Yannick Weber

Ben Hutton - Matt Bartkowski

Jacob Markstrom

Joe Cannata

Injured: Sven Baertschi (neck), Ryan Miller (groin), Dan Hamhuis (facial surgery), Luca Sbisa (hand), Brandon Sutter (sports hernia surgery)

Scratched: Andrey Pedan, Ronalds Kenins, Alexandre Grenier

Status Report: Grenier was recalled from Utica of the American Hockey League on Monday as a precaution after Prust was hurt against the Ducks on Friday. But Prust skated Monday and is expected to play against the Coyotes. … McCann returns to the lineup after being scratched from the 2-1 shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. The 19-year-old rookie said he understands it's part of a plan to get him more rest and development down the stretch. But it didn't make it any easier to sit out. "I am a competitive person," he said. "I want to be in every game. But I realize the situation they are putting me in and I think it's for the best." … Baertschi, who had three goals and four points in five games before getting hurt, skated with the team Monday. "He looks like he's skating hard so that's a good sign he could be pretty close," Desjardins said. … Sutter and Sbisa skated with the Canucks' skills coach before the rest of the players took the ice Monday. … Miller, who will miss his fifth game with a groin injury, is skating on his own. Desjardins said he'll need two to four practices before he can look at starting again. … Arizona sent right wing Craig Cunningham to Springfield of the AHL on Monday to make room for Gordon.

Who's Hot: Richardson, who left the Canucks as a free agent last summer, has one goal and two assists during a two-game point streak and six points in his past six games, matching his total from the previous 17 games.

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