VANCOUVER -- When the Vancouver Canucks played the Anaheim Ducks for the first time this season on Nov. 9, they were coming off a lopsided 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings the prior night.
Worried about that listless performance, Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa tried to set the tone by fighting Ducks forward Patrick Maroon right after the opening faceoff. Vancouver went on to defeat Anaheim 2-1 in a shootout.
Now, as the Canucks prepare to play the Ducks for the fourth time this season Tuesday, Vancouver is wondering where it will get that emotional spark without Bieksa, who had surgery to repair a broken hand during the All-Star break.
Bieksa, who also started a Jan. 15 game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a first-shift fight one night after a 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. He sustained the injury blocking a Victor Hedman shot against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 20.
Rookie Frank Corrado will take Bieksa's spot on the second defense pairing, but it will take more to fill the leadership and toughness void.
"We know in this locker room [Bieksa] is a big part of our leadership," forward Alexandre Burrows said. "If he feels something needs to be done, he is going to do it, and that fight with Maroon was one of them, and same thing in Philadelphia. He sets the tone for our hockey club, he is a big voice in our locker room, and we are going to miss him."
Replacing Bieksa in that locker room will require a group effort.
"Physically, everyone has to step up and give a little bit more," Burrows said. "It's not just the leadership. I don't think [Henrik Sedin] is going to fight tonight just because Kevin is not playing. We talk about it, we have a group, it's not like we rely on one guy. Everyone is accountable to bring a little more and help fill that void."
Canucks coach Willie Desjardins isn't worried about a lack of toughness.
"Your toughness has got to be on your power play now," he said. "You've got to make teams pay by scoring on your power play."
Bieksa may actually be easier to replace on the ice than off it despite averaging 21:16 in ice time, which is second on Vancouver to fellow defenseman Alexander Edler. Bieksa has three goals, nine points and a minus-4 rating in 45 games, and his shot-based possession statistics are below 50 percent and at their lowest levels in eight seasons.
Corrado has one goal in four games in a season spent mostly with Utica of the American Hockey League, but he showed signs on the recent road trip of being ready for a larger role. He should get it alongside veteran Dan Hamhuis, who returned Jan. 16 after missing two months because of a groin tear.
"He's a world-class defenseman," Corrado said of Hamhuis. "You learn so much being by his side. Hopefully we can jell together and help the team."
It won't be easy against the Ducks, who lead the NHL with 68 points and won five straight games before the All-Star break.
While Vancouver comes out of the break trying to figure out how to plug holes caused by injury, Anaheim is just trying to get back on a roll again.
"We just need to see the same thing we left on," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "Sometimes a break is good, and sometimes when you are playing well it takes a little while to get into it. I hope we have the same kind of energy we had in practice yesterday and this (Tuesday) morning skate. If that's any indicator, I think we are on track."
Here are the projected lineups:
Patrick Maroon - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Kesler - Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Cogliano - Rickard Rakell - Jakob Silfverberg
Rene Bourque - Nate Thompson - Tim Jackman
Cam Fowler - Ben Lovejoy
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Clayton Stoner - Sami Vatanen
Scratched: Devante Smith-Pelly, Colby Robak
Injured: Eric Brewer (foot)
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata
Chris Higgins - Linden Vey - Alexandre Burrows
Shawn Matthias - Nick Bonino - Zack Kassian
Derek Dorsett - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen
Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev
Dan Hamhuis - Frank Corrado
Luca Sbisa - Yannick Weber
Scratched: Ryan Stanton,
Injured: Kevin Bieksa (broken hand), Brad Richardson (lower body)
Status update: Richardson did not play the final two of a five-game road trip before the All-Star break because of a lower-body injury and left the Tuesday morning skate early. There was no update after the skate from Desjardins, but Richardson, who is sixth on the Canucks with 19 points and a key part of their second-ranked penalty kill, is not expected to play. … Smith-Pelly will be a healthy scratch for a second straight game and third time in the past eight, but Boudreau had only good things to say about the 22-year-old right wing. "He's not playing bad, it's just we got a good team," Boudreau said. "It's not that easy sometimes to crack the lineup, and when we play certain foes, some guys are better suited for that situation. I have no problem with what [Smith-Pelly] has done. I think he's a valuable member of our team and a really good player. It's just hard to break up that lineup right now." … Stoner returns to the lineup after missing one game because of a lower-body injury.
Who's hot: Andersen is 5-0-1 against the Canucks and has allowed more than one goal to Vancouver once during his two seasons in the NHL. … Maroon has two goals and three assists during a three-game point streak playing on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry.