VANCOUVER -- The return of top-six forward Alexandre Burrows to the Vancouver Canucks lineup for a game Monday against the Washington Capitals certainly comes at a time of need.
The Canucks forward group resembled a busy emergency room after losing four forwards on their recent seven-game road trip.
Vancouver lost Dale Weise, David Booth, Jannik Hansen and Jordan Schroeder on their longest trip of the season, and none are ready to return for the first game back home against the Capitals.
Coach John Tortorella said Schroeder requires surgery to have a pin inserted in his ankle and will be out two months. Weise, who was on crutches and wearing a knee brace at the end of the road trip, and Hansen, who slid heavily into the end boards and left holding his arm, are both out 3-4 weeks. Booth is out 1-2 weeks.
Burrows, who averaged just less than 30 goals the past four full seasons, hasn't played since breaking his foot blocking a shot while killing a 5-on-3 in a season opening loss to the San Jose Sharks.
"You guys know [Burrows], you know what he is going to bring," Tortorella said of Burrows. "He is dying to play. I think it will give us a little jolt of enthusiasm. He's a different personality. We need that."
Burrows, who led the team with 13 goals in the shortened 2012-13 season, won't return to his regular role alongside Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin on the top line. That spot is occupied by converted center Ryan Kesler. Burrows will play with Mike Santorelli and Chris Higgins.
"Santorelli is making plays out there, he wants to make things happen, and (Higgins) is great along the wall," said Burrows, who was with the team and skating during the 5-1-1 road trip.
Burrows said the team success made it easier not to rush back.
"It's been a long three weeks," he said. "You just have to stay positive, so it was nice to see the boys get some big wins on the road."
Burrows will wear a protective cover over his skates now.
"They are not my favorite but they can prevent an injury, so might as well suck it up a little bit and get used to them," he said.
Especially with how frequently his fellow forwards are getting hurt.
Burrows returns against a Capitals team that had won three straight before a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. Braden Holtby was in goal for all four games, and started six straight, but was pulled to spark a sagging team after three goals in 12:28 on Saturday, and will watch Michal Neuvirth make his second start and fourth appearance in 12 games Monday night against the Canucks.
"I was actually going to play Neuvy in Calgary and Holts was so hot I just thought let's try and see if we can run the table with Holts," coach Adam Oates said. "After we give up so many shots in Winnipeg (last Tuesday) and then another big game in Edmonton (on Thursday), maybe it was time to give Holts a rest."
Oates is expected to ice the same forward lines but indicated he might make a game-time decision to replace veteran defenseman John Erskine with 22-year-old Alexander Urbom, who has played five games this season.
"Just a lot of hockey in a short span of time for Erskine," Oates said.
Here are the rest of the expected lines:
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Ryan Kesler
Chris Higgins – Mike Santorelli – Alexandre Burrows
Tom Sestito – Brad Richardson – Zack Kassian
Yannick Weber – Jeremy Welsh – Darren Archibald
Dan Hamhuis – Christopher Tanev ?????????
Alexander Edler – Jason Garrison
Ryan Stanton – Kevin Bieksa
Scratched: Andrew Alberts
Injured: Jordan Schroeder (foot), Jannik Hansen (upper body), Dale Weise (lower body), David Booth (undisclosed)
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Martin Erat – Brooks Laich – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mikhail Grabovski – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Eric Fehr – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Nate Schmidt – Mike Green
John Erskine/Alexander Urbom – Steve Oleksy
Scratched: Jay Beagle, Alexander Urbom/John Erskine
Injured: Jack Hillen (lower body)