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Canucks' Vrbata expected to play against Devils

by Kevin Woodley

DEVILS (10-8-1) at CANUCKS (8-7-6)


VANCOUVERRadim Vrbata missed out on the scoring Saturday night but the Vancouver Canucks right wing will return from injury against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.

Vrbata was watching for a second straight game recovering from a lower-body injury when the Canucks scored three times late in the third period to end a four-game losing streak with a 6-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Vrbata won't be back on the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who combined for four goals and nine points against Chicago, but will be counted on to hopefully spread out the scoring more against New Jersey.

"That's one of those games it seemed like everything was clicking for them and it's fun to see," Vrbata said. "I had a few of those in my career and it's fun to play those games, but we will need close to the same tonight."

Vrbata will either play on the right side of the second line centered by Bo Horvat or the third line alongside rookie center Jared McCann and Chris Higgins, who moves from right to left wing.

Vrbata has three goals in 19 games after leading the Canucks with 31 goals last season, but is second on the team with 74 shots, and had assists in two of three games before the injury.

"Watching games is not fun for a hockey player when you feel like you want to be out there but it was time I needed for recovery," Vrbata said. "We worked on some stuff the last five days and hopefully there will be no issues going forward."

New Jersey is also making changes to its lineup after losing the first two games of a three-game trip through Western Canada.

Devils defenseman David Schlemko is "day-to-day" and won't play because of a lower-body injury, according to coach John Hynes. Schlemko will be replaced by Eric Gelinas, who has been a healthy scratch for the past seven games.

Gelinas and John Moore will split Schlemko's minutes on New Jersey's third-ranked power play, which could help Gelinas find some confidence after sitting more than two weeks.

"It makes you feel good to make a couple plays on the power play, even if it's just simple passes or a shot on net, it gives you confidence and you feel better about yourself," Gelinas said. "The challenge is not to try too much. You want to impress the coaches but I don't want to be that guy that goes out of my way and does stuff I am not supposed to. I just want to play a simple game and really enjoy being out there and have fun. It's been hard to keep a smile on my face lately."

New Jersey will also shake up its bottom two lines, with Jiri Tlusty coming off the third line as a healthy scratch and Stefan Matteau moving back into the lineup on a new-look fourth line.

"I wouldn't say it's one thing, it's just in general we feel there's more there," Hynes said of sitting Tlusty. "We need more out of both (lines). We've kept it fairly similar for a while and we have to be a strong four-line team … see if we can get a little more from those guys."

Here are the projected lineups:


Mike Cammalleri - Adam Henrique - Lee Stempniak

Sergey Kalinin - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri

Bobby Farnham - Jacob Josefson - Brian O'Neill

Stefan Matteau - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

John Moore - Damon Severson

Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Injured: Tuomo Ruutu (foot), Patrik Elias (knee)

Scratched: Jiri Tlusty


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Alexandre Burrows - Bo Horvat - Jake Virtanen

Chris Higgins - Jared McCann - Radim Vrbata

Brandon Prust - Adam Cracknell - Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber

Luca Sbisa - Matt Bartkowski

Jacob Markstrom

Ryan Miller

Scratched: Sven Baertschi, Taylor Fedun

Injured: Brandon Sutter (abdominal strain), Ben Hutton (lower body)

Status Report: The Canucks announced Sutter, who missed his fifth straight game Saturday, will be sidelined at least two weeks before having an abdominal strain re-evaluated by a specialist. Coach Willie Desjardins said Sunday that Hutton, a rookie defenseman who missed his first game on Saturday with a suspected foot injury from blocking a shot, would also be out "something around two weeks." Defenseman Taylor Fedun was called up from Utica of the American Hockey League to give the Canucks a healthy extra option before their four-game road trip.

Who's hot: Daniel and Henrik Sedin scorched the Blackhawks for nine combined points, and Henrik set a new career high with five points (one goal, four assists), including the primary assist on all three of Daniel's goals. Henrik has seven points during a three-game point streak. Daniel has seven points during a four-game streak and goals in three straight games.

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