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Concussion again has Hamhuis out vs. Nashville

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE -- On Friday, Dan Hamhuis spoke eagerly of playing his first game as an opponent in Nashville, the city where he was drafted and spent his first six NHL seasons.

However, Hamhuis' plans were derailed Sunday when the Vancouver Canucks defenseman suffered a concussion -- his second in two months -- as a result of a collision with Columbus forward Rick Nash.

Hamhuis, who departed the Predators via free agency in July by signing a six-year contract with Vancouver, missed the teams' first meeting in Nashville in February, also because of a concussion. He had big plans for the second and final meeting of the season at Bridgestone Arena. The Canucks arrived late Sunday and had all day Monday here.

Hamhuis' wife flew in to meet him and the couple was scheduled to visit old friends and close on the sale of their former home.

As a result of the injury, however, Hamhuis will not play. But he remains on the trip and was able to accomplish some of what he had wanted to.

"I was concerned, but I talked to him, I saw him (Monday) and he seems to be in good spirits," Predators defenseman Shea Weber said Tuesday. "He feels good, and obviously that's good to hear because concussions are a scary thing."

From what he saw, Weber said that Hamhuis "feels as good as he can for having a concussion the night before."

"He seemed positive and it doesn't seem like he'll be away from the game for too long," Weber said.

As per Canucks team policy, injured players are not made available to the media. Nonetheless, Weber's comments echoed those of Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who told the Vancouver Sun, "I think he's fine. He's looking forward to getting back."

The Canucks are riding high right now. They're the NHL's hottest team with a 9-1-0 mark in their last 10 games, and one point from clinching the top seed in the Western Conference. However, the Predators are almost just as hot, having gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 to enter Tuesday's game sixth in the West.

However, losing Hamhuis means Vancouver will be missing two of its top three defensemen, as Alexander Edler has been out since late January with a back injury. As a Predator, Hamhuis was almost as durable as they come, playing 483 of 492 regular season games while twice playing in all 82 in a season.

The only positive for Vancouver is that good news could be on the horizon. Coach Alain Vigneault told reporters Monday that he would not be surprised if Edler participated in the Canucks' morning skate Thursday, prior to their game against Los Angeles.

In reference to Hamhuis, Vigneault did not have much to reveal to reporters Monday. (On Tuesday morning, the Canucks held an optional skate with only four players participating and no coaches, so Vigneault was not available to comment.)

"I talked to him briefly and he said he was feeling better, so we'll see as we go forward here," Vigneault was quoted as saying in the Vancouver Sun. "We are just going to follow the NHL protocol and see what happens."

A Canucks spokesman said Tuesday that the team had nothing new to report on Hamhuis' condition.

Of Nashville, Hamhuis had said on Friday, "I really enjoyed my six years on that team and that organization. It's a great group of guys, a city that my family really enjoyed living in, too. So I'm looking forward to going there and seeing some familiar faces at the rink and away from it."

Hamhuis said a lot of people might not know that Bridgestone Arena is one of the NHL's loudest, especially in the playoffs.

"It was always fun playing at home," he said.

With his $27-million contract, Hamhuis priced himself out of Nashville. However, he still has respect for what the organization does. He said he thought Weber and Predators goalie Pekka Rinne were "very deserving" of any consideration they might get for the Norris and Vezina trophies, respectively.

"The organization does so much with probably less, as far as their salaries and stuff," Hamhuis said. "From the outside looking in, they seem like an overachieving team and they do a lot with their young players. It's always great to see those guys make it" to the playoffs.

What would it be like for Hamhuis -- provided he regains his health -- should the Canucks face the Predators in the first round of the postseason?

"It would be an interesting situation," Hamhuis said. "They'd be tough. They don't have a lot of the big names throughout the lineup that a lot of the other teams do, but they play a really good team game. And they got great goaltending, great defense. I think they play really well as a team together. That's why they've been successful this year."
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