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At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks will get several key players back from injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, but more important will be making sure everyone else is focused.

That wasn't the case against a couple of the NHL's other struggling teams recently and it cost the Canucks valuable points in their race to get back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vancouver lost 6-3 to the last-place the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 26 and needed a late rally to earn a point before losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Arizona Coyotes, who are 14th in the Western Conference, on March 5.

Toronto comes to Vancouver in 13th place in the Eastern Conference after a 6-3 loss Friday to the Calgary Flames, has five wins in its last 31 games and has only won one road game in 2015. Of course, the Coyotes had lost 10 straight before beating Vancouver.

"I can stand here and say a lot of different things but it's about us being ready," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "The first five minutes we have to come out and show that we're not going to let this one slip away and not give Toronto any life."

Vancouver is a point behind the Flames in third place in the Pacific Division after Calgary's win Friday, and one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings after a 4-0 loss to the Kings on Thursday. But the Canucks are getting healthy for final 15 games of the season.

Defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Yannick Weber and forwards Brad Richardson and Chris Higgins could all return against the Leafs.

Richardson, a checking center who has missed 24 games with a foot injury that was originally supposed to keep him out a couple of days, will play against Toronto. So will Higgins, who has missed three games with an unidentified injury, and Weber, who has been out the past two with an upper body injury.

The lone question mark on game day was Bieksa, a top-four defenseman who has been out 22 games with a badly broken finger from blocking a shot on Jan. 20 that required surgery.

"If you saw my hand after the shot, it didn't look like a hand. It does now," Bieksa said. "I'm in that range right now for return. I've been feeling good the last couple of days and sometimes it takes just a little push to get over that hump and I feel like I'm right there."

Toronto will also welcome back an important player Saturday, but not from injury.

Nazem Kadri is expected back in the lineup after missing three games for disciplinary reasons. Kadri was originally benched for one game after being late for a team meeting on Sunday, but was scratched for two more, and Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said the 24-year-old forward's problems went beyond that.

"Of course I'm embarrassed about it," Kadri told reporters in Calgary on Friday. "Lesson learned and that's how I'm going to approach it. I'm a little bit humiliated but besides that it was a lesson learned and something you can look to as making yourself a better person. … It's a lesson that couldn't be more clear at this point in time."

Here are the projected lineups:


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Richard Panik

Leo Komarov - Peter Holland - David Booth

Zach Sill - Trevor Smith - Joakim Lindstrom

Eric Brewer - Morgan Rielly

Dion Phaneuf - Jake Gardiner

TJ Brennan - Andrew MacWilliam

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Tim Erixon, Brandon Kozun

Injured: Stephane Robidas (shoulder), Roman Polak (hernia), Nathan Horton (concussion)


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Zack Kassian

Shawn Matthias - Nick Bonino - Radim Vrbata

Chris Higgins - Brad Richardson - Alexandre Burrows

Derek Dorsett - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen

Alexander EdlerChristopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa

Luca Sbisa - Yannick Weber

Eddie Lack

Joacim Eriksson

Scratched: Brandon McMillan, Linden Vey, Adam Clendening, Ronalds Kenins, Ryan Stanton, Frank Corrado

Injured: Ryan Miller (knee)

Status report: Burrows did not practice Friday, but Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said it was just a "maintenance day," which usually means the player will be back for the game. If Burrows can't play, expect Kenins to play on the fourth line and Dorsett to move up with Richardson. … The Canucks sent backup goalie Jacob Markstrom back down to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League to "play a couple games" this weekend, said Desjardins. Markstrom was second in the AHL with a .932 save percentage when he was called up after Miller injured his knee, but gave up three goals on four shots and was pulled less than eight minutes into his only start. Eriksson was called up to back up Lack, but Desjardins said the roster move does not count against the Canucks four after the NHL Trade Deadline because Miller's injury makes it an emergency recall. ... With no game-day skates ahead of a 4 p.m. start there was no word on where Kadri would return in the lineup. Toronto's lines are based on his last game.

Who's hot: Booth, who was bought out by the Canucks before signing in Toronto, scored twice against Calgary on Friday and has four goals and seven points during a six-game point streak.

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