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Banged-up Canucks visit Nashville

by Dan Rosen
CANUCKS (37-12-9) at PREDATORS (30-19-8)

TV -- SNET-Pacific (HD)

Last 10 -- Vancouver 8-2-0; Nashville 4-4-2

Season series -- It's the second of four meetings between the clubs this season. Vancouver beat Nashville 2-1 at Rogers Arena on Jan. 26. The Canucks and Predators will play twice next month, March 3 in Vancouver and March 29 in Nashville.

Big story -- Vancouver is losing defensemen by the day, but isn't losing its cushion in the Western Conference standings. The Canucks, who are without Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts, are coming off a 4-1 win over Minnesota and hold a nine-point lead over Detroit for first in the conference. Meanwhile, the Predators are also holding their ground. They're 3-1-1 on their current homestand, but a win Thursday would be a huge boost.

Team Scope:

Canucks -- They've used 12 defensemen this season and have three of their top six (Ballard, Edler, Alberts) on injured reserve while Hamhuis remains out with a concussion. The recent return of Sami Salo gave the Canucks a bit of a cushion to absorb all of these blue-line blows. Yann Sauve made his NHL debut Tuesday night and skated more than 12 minutes in the 4-1 win. Aaron Rome and rookie Christopher Tanev filled out the defense corps against the Wild. It'll be that way for a while -- Assistant GM Lorne Henning told the Vancouver Province on Tuesday that Ballard (knee sprain) and Hamhuis are progressing, but Hamhuis is doing only light skating and Ballard won't be on the ice until next week. Alberts is out at least six weeks after having surgery on his broken wrist and Edler is out indefinitely after back surgery. Still, the Canucks won in Minnesota, 4-1, behind a strong performance by backup goalie Cory Schneider and the rebuilt D.

"It's crazy, but it means we've got a lot of good defensemen," captain Henrik Sedin told the Vancouver Sun. "Even with the injuries, we only dressed one minor-leaguer (Tuesday), so that's good. The timing is good; these guys should all be back before the playoffs start."

Predators -- Nashville coach Barry Trotz made an interesting decision Tuesday night by scratching J-P Dumont despite there being nothing physically wrong with him. Dumont had missed only one game prior to Tuesday's 2-1 overtime loss to San Jose, but he has only 17 points and none in his last eight. Trotz called it a coach's decision to scratch Dumont, but clearly he's looking to give the forward a kick in the pants. The Predators have 14 healthy forwards -- including Marcel Goc and Marek Svatos, who returned from injury Tuesday. Dumont will have to pick it up if he wants to play.

"We're getting healthy, and I have to put people into certain areas and try to keep lines and stabilize things," Trotz told The Tennessean. "Everybody coming back (needs to) catch up to the speeding train right now, so it was just a coach's decision more than anything."

Who's hot -- Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson has 6 goals in the last six games and 15 points in the last 10 games.

Injury report -- We already told you about the Canucks injury situation, which, by the way, also includes defenseman Lee Sweatt. … Nashville is missing defenseman Francis Bouillon, who has been out with a concussion since Jan. 16.

Stat pack -- Canucks center Manny Malhotra scored his first road goal this season and first in 23 games in Tuesday's win. … Sauve became the 13th player to make his Canucks debut on Tuesday. … Vancouver leads the NHL with a plus-24 goal differential in the first period. … Nashville is 0-5 in overtime games this season -- but 6-3 in shootouts.

Puck Drop -- "It is a lot of injuries, but to tell you the truth I'm sick of talking about it," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa told the Vancouver Sun. "What more can you say about it? Guys are getting hurt and there's not much you can do to control it, so you just keep playing. You don't think about it a whole lot. You just keep going. Guys are going to come back from injury; they're not gone for the season. It's just a matter of getting through this tough time."

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