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Canucks hoping for better play from top line

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks will get some forward depth back during the next two games.

David Booth returns Thursday against the San Jose Sharks from a groin injury and conditioning stint in the American Hockey League, while Jannik Hansen (shoulder) returned to practice Wednesday and is eligible to come off long-term injured reserve Sunday against the Dallas Stars. And Dale Weise (knee) may join him after skating with the team for the first time Thursday.

"You have to get hit to feel comfortable but I am close," Weise said. "I'll practice Saturday and if that feels good, maybe Sunday. If not then Tuesday [against the Florida Panthers] I think I will be back."

Those three should provide a boost to a Canucks team that struggles at times to ice a reliable third line and barely plays its fourth. But none of that will matter if Vancouver doesn't get more from its top unit.

Daniel and Henrik Sedin have been held without a point for three straight games for the first time since last January, and linemate Ryan Kesler has one assist in that stretch, which included back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks last weekend.

That scoreless drought included a 4-2 win in San Jose that ended a nine-game losing skid against the Sharks. But they know they won’t win often without scoring from the Sedin twins and Kesler, who are playing career-high minutes under new coach John Tortorella.

"We didn't create enough chances," said Henrik Sedin, who had a 12-game point streak before the drought and was dropped to the second line while going minus-5 in the losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Despite some criticism during the road trip, Tortorella insisted that he isn't worried about his top line.

"There were some plays there that they usually make that they didn't, but I don't worry about it," he said. "They are such pros and they are the heartbeat of our team here, they will figure it out. ... I don't need to call them out. They are so good at assessing their game, they know where they are and they will be better."

The hope is that includes a power play Tortorella said "sucked" after the loss Sunday. Anchored by the Sedins on the top unit, the Canucks' power play has two goals in 28 chances in the past seven games and enters play Thursday 28th in the NHL at 9.7 percent.

The Sharks have been in a bit of a funk of their own but managed to pick up points in four of five losses (0-1-4) before snapping the skid with a 3-2 overtime win against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

San Jose still is without top-line forward Brent Burns, who was skating in an orange no-contact jersey Thursday after practicing in a regular-colored jersey earlier in the week.

"As he moved through his injury we thought he would be into a situation where he would be more of a full participant but he didn't quite get there, so we put him back into the orange jersey so there isn't any contact with him," coach Todd McLellan said. "He'll come and tell us when he is ready to get back into teal and get going."

McLellan insisted the orange jersey wasn't a setback for Burns, who has missed 10 games with an undisclosed facial injury triggered by being hit in the mouth in games Oct. 12 and 19.

"No, setback wouldn't be a good word," McLellan said. "I think it's just stalled a little bit."

Here are the expected lineups for San Jose and Vancouver:


Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Tommy Wingels

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy

Matthew Nieto - Joe Pavelski - Martin Havlat

James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown/John McCarthy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Brad Stuart - Justin Braun

Jason Demers - Scott Hannan

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Matt Irwin, Mike Brown/John McCarthy

Injured: Brent Burns (face), Raffi Torres (knee), Adam Burish (back)


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Ryan Kesler

Chris Higgins - Mike Santorelli - Alexandre Burrows

David Booth - Brad Richardson - Zack Kassian

Tom Sestito - Jeremy Welsh - Zac Dalpe

Alexander Edler - Jason Garrison

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev ?????????

Ryan Stanton - Kevin Bieksa

Roberto Luongo

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Andrew Alberts, Yannick Weber

Injured: Jordan Schroeder (foot), Jannik Hansen (shoulder), Dale Weise (knee)

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