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Bieksa expects to return Thursday for Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Kevin Bieksa isn't planning to ride in on a white horse, but the Vancouver Canucks are counting on a boost when the defenseman returns from a groin injury against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

Despite being listed as a game-time decision, all signs at the morning skate pointed to Bieksa coming back after missing seven of the past eight games. After losing six of those seven without him (1-4-2), the Canucks will welcome him back with open arms.

"I don't think I am the savior," said Bieksa, who leads Vancouver's defense with five goals. "The answers are definitely in this room right now."

The Canucks have struggled to find them without Bieksa, one of two right-handed shots on their blue line. They lost the first two without him, beat the Los Angeles Kings when he returned, then lost four straight after he was reinjured in that win before eking out a 2-1 shootout win on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

In addition to balancing the pairings, playing on the power play and penalty kill, Bieksa brings some needed edge and offensive push.

"Anytime you have that type of personality, that type of edge in your lineup, you are a better team," coach Alain Vigneault said.

Bieksa isn't worried about coming back too soon after lasting one game last time, saying his has been pain free for five or six days.

"I wouldn't say I came back too early last time," Bieksa said. "I felt good, it was just a matter of taking a hit at the end of the game. When you make a decision you go forward with it and not look back and do the 'what if.'"

Here are the lineups for Thursday night's game at Rogers Arena between the Canucks and Predators, whose injury woes were compounded with the loss of Paul Gaustad on Tuesday against the Dallas Stars:


Bobby ButlerDavid LegwandGabriel Bourque

Martin EratMike FisherSergei Kostitsyn

Matt HalischukCraig SmithZach Boychuk

Brandon YipNick SpalingRich Clune

Roman JosiShea Weber

Victor Bartley ­– Kevin Klein

Scott HannanRyan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Chris Mason

Scratched: Jonathon Blum

Injured: Hal Gill (lower body), Patric Hornqvist (upper body), Colin Wilson (upper body), Paul Gaustad (upper body)

Notes: Gaustad flew back to Nashville to be evaluated by team doctors after getting hurt in Dallas. … Hornqvist and Wilson, who leads the team with 19 points, are out for at least Friday's game against the Calgary Flames and Sunday's game against the Edmonton Oilers. Nashville wraps up a five-game road trip Tuesday against the Blue Jackets.


Daniel SedinHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows

Mason RaymondAndrew EbbettJannik Hansen

David BoothChris HigginsZack Kassian

Tom Sestito/Steve Pinizzotto – Maxim LapierreDale Weise

Dan Hamhuis – ?????????Jason Garrison

Alexander EdlerChristopher Tanev

Andrew AlbertsKevin Bieksa

Roberto Luongo

Cory Schneider

Injured: Ryan Kesler (fractured foot, 2 to 4 weeks) Manny Malhotra (eye, out for season).

Scratched: Keith Ballard, Cam Barker, Tom Sestito/Steve Pinizzotto

Notes: Luongo, who made 26 saves and stopped all three in the shootout against Columbus, is starting consecutive games ahead of Schneider for the second time since Feb. 4. ... Pinizzotto appeared to make the team out of training camp two seasons ago only to get hurt before the season started, and has missed most of the past 18 months with injuries. He was recalled from a two-week conditioning stint with the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League earlier in the day, was scheduled to arrive in the afternoon, and could make his NHL debut against the Predators. "Twenty-eight-year-old rookie? He should be pretty excited," Vigneault said. "From what I remember in camp, he was an energy player, got in real hard on the forecheck and had a physical edge to his game and a real decent skill set." … Ballard will be a healthy scratch for the second straight game and fourth time in the past seven.

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