VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler will be back in the lineup Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets after serving a two-game suspension for hitting Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith behind the net.
Edler may get some unsolicited advice from fellow defenseman Keith Ballard, who will again play up front on a team missing six injured forwards.
"As soon as I switched to wing I turned my brain off and started complaining to the D-men," Ballard said with a smile. "That's what forwards do, right?"
Actually, with so many regulars missing, Vancouver's forwards have been asked to come back deeper in the defensive zone and help out rather than waiting up high and complaining when breakout passes don't hit their tape in full stride.
"Keith has been quiet, actually," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "He's starting to appreciate how good our D are when he goes up and sees how easy it is."
The forwards have been a bigger part of that during Vancouver's four-game win streak. Ideally, the Canucks would like that same commitment to defense from all five players on the ice at all times during the season, but it's been especially important as they ran short on both healthy forwards and goal scoring.
In addition to missing an entire second line in Ryan Kesler, David Booth and Zack Kassian, the Canucks have been without defensive specialist Manny Malhotra most of the season, Dale Weise injured his shoulder against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, and call-up Steven Pinizzotto is ill.
The guys who are left are focusing on their play in their own end, and making life easier on goalie Cory Schneider, who will make a fifth consecutive start.
"Maybe sometimes we get away from that mindset," Bieksa said. "Taking care of our end, coming back with five guys and breaking out together, we realize how much better of a team we are, how many more chances we get that way offensively and how much tougher a game it is to play against."
As for Ballard, he's just trying to contribute any way he can, especially after being a healthy scratch five times this season on a team carrying eight defensemen.
"That's the only thing you can do, is embrace it and have fun with it," Ballard said. "You never know, maybe this is the start of 10 years as a winger."
Here are the lineups as the Canucks host the Blue Jackets at Rogers Arena:
RJ Umberger – Ryan Johansen – Nick Foligno
Vinny Prospal – Derick Brassard – Mark Letestu
Matt Calvert – Artem Anisimov – Cam Atkinson
Colton Gillies – Derek MacKenzie – Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin – Jack Johnson
Dalton Prout – Nikita Nikitin
John Moore – Adrian Aucoin
Injured: James Wisniewski (foot), Derek Dorsett (collarbone)
Scratched: Sean Collins, Tim Erixon
Notes: Wisniewski, who has been out since Feb. 24, is with the team and skating, and could return as early as Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Chris Higgins
Mason Raymond – Jordan Schroeder – Jannik Hansen
Keith Ballard – Andrew Ebbett – Alexandre Burrows
Tom Sestito – Maxim Lapierre – Andrew Gordon
Dan Hamhuis – ?????????Jason Garrison
Alexander Edler – Kevin Bieksa
Andrew Alberts – Christopher Tanev
Injured: Zack Kassian
(back), Steven Pinizzotto
(sick), Dale Weise
(shoulder), David Booth
(ankle surgery), Ryan Kesler
(fractured foot) Manny Malhotra
Scratched: Cam Barker
Notes: Kassian and Pinizzotto, who both stayed in Vancouver during the recent three-game road trip, skated on Tuesday, could return Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche.