VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella didn't sugarcoat how he felt about Andrew Alberts filling in for injured defenseman Alexander Edler after sitting out the past six weeks as a healthy scratch.
"I am worried about it," Tortorella said.
Alberts hasn't played since Oct. 24 and only one of the three games he has played this season came on defense; he filled in as a fourth-line forward in the other two. He played one 37-second shift Oct. 22 and three shifts totaling 1:49 on Oct. 24. Now the Canucks need him to fill some of the team-high 23:26 averaged by Edler, who is out indefinitely after injuring his right knee in a 3-1 win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
Tortorella knows that is a lot to ask of Alberts.
"I love the guy. He is a great teammate. He just comes to work every day but he hasn't seen any game looks," Tortorella said. "With so many different looks coming at you, when you don't have those in game situations for as long as it's been, it's a tough spot.”
While the Canucks try to determine how to replace a key defenseman, their opponents Friday are hoping get one back from injury. Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek has missed eight games with a lower-body injury but was skating hard Friday morning and will be a game-time decision.
"Anytime you can get a veteran player like Michalek back it would help," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "The last few years he has been up there in shot blocking, penalty killing, all those areas of our game we are trying to improve, so if he plays [Friday] hopefully he can help."
Tippett said captain Shane Doan is a game-time decision after missing the morning skate with an illness.
"We have some question marks in our lineup, a couple of guys who are going to go right until this evening before we decide," Tippett said. "There are lots of possibilities."
It's also possible the Canucks call up a defenseman from the American Hockey League, but not until after the game against Phoenix, said Tortorella, who wants to ease Alberts in and see how the game goes first.
Alberts won't take Edler's spot on the point of a power play that has scored in six straight games after struggling to start the season, but the 6-foot-5 defenseman likely will be counted on for some of Edler's minutes clearing the crease on the penalty kill.
At least Alberts has experience after a lengthy time off. He watched the first 17 games last season as a healthy scratch before playing 24 of the final 31 as the Canucks ran into injury problems.
"It has been a long way back and it's frustrating not playing," Alberts said. "I will try and get a bump in right away and that calms you down a little bit. It's just about making simple plays."
Here are the expected lineups:
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Tim Kennedy - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Kyle Chipchura - Mike Ribeiro - David Moss
Rob Klinkhammer - Jeff Halpern - Jordan Szwarz
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michael Stone
Keith Yandle - Zbynek Michalek
David Schlemko - Derek Morris
Scratched: Paul Bissonnette, David Rundblad, Connor Murphy
Injured: Lauri Korpikoski (upper body)
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Mike Santorelli
Dale Weise - Brad Richardson - Jannik Hansen
Tom Sestito - Zac Dalpe - Zack Kassian
Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev ?????????
Ryan Stanton - Kevin Bieksa
Andrew Alberts - Jason Garrison
Scratched: Jeremy Welsh
Injured: Alexander Edler (knee), Alexandre Burrows (broken jaw), Jordan Schroeder (foot)