Hamhuis injury could further test Canucks' defense
VANCOUVER -- It was an issue which came to the forefront throughout the regular season, and it looks as though the Vancouver Canucks' defensive depth is going to be called upon once again.
Blueliner Dan Hamhuis appeared to suffer a lower-body injury in Vancouver's 1-0 win over Boston in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final after sending Bruins forward Milan Lucic head over heels with a hip check.
Hamhuis left the game near the four-minute mark of the second period and did not return. It's unclear whether he suffered the injury on the hit or the subsequent cross check from Boston center David Krejci.
The 28-year-old had 8:09 of ice time in 11 shifts to go along with two hits before leaving the game.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault would only say Hamhuis is "day-to-day," but it wouldn't be the first time he's had to call for reinforcements on the back end. Vancouver used 13 defensemen during the regular season, and has called on nine different blueliners in these playoffs.
"Right now we've got Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Chris Tanev that have played some big minutes with us this year and they have done a good job," Vigneault said. "If we need somebody to play minutes, I'm confident that they'll be able to step in and do a real good job for us."
Ballard has played in nine games during the playoffs, including Games 4 and 5 of the San Jose series when defensemen Aaron Rome and Christian Ehrhoff went down with injuries.
Alberts, the lone member of the Canucks who has played for Boston, has played in three postseason games while Tanev, a 21-year-old rookie, dressed in two games.
Ballard feels like his experience in the Eastern Conference, while with the Florida Panthers, may give him an advantage.
"I think the more familiar you are with the players you're facing, obviously that's to your advantage," he said. "But at the same time they're probably more familiar with me, having played with a few of those guys and played against a lot of them."
The Baudette, Minn., native, who was the whipping boy of Canucks coaches at times this season, knows the importance of being ready to jump into the lineup at any time.
"It's unfair to your teammates, and everyone else, if you're not ready to go. All the guys who are not playing have approached it the same way," Ballard said. "You have to be able to contribute; I mean, it's a test mentally and physically to stay sharp and to stay in it every day, and to make sure you're ready physically.
"You have to do extra stuff after practice, and on days off."
Veteran Sami Salo, who played in just 27 games during the regular season as a result of a ruptured Achilles tendon, says the comfort level among teammates has made slotting players in and out of the lineup much easier.
"It's obviously nothing new this year; I think we've gone through 14 defensemen, so it obviously shows the depth of this team," Salo said. "Everybody's comfortable with playing with anybody. Dannys obviously a big part of this team, but other guys stepped in big time."
Hamhuis missed 18 games during the regular season due to two separate concussions. The Smithers, BC, native has 1 goal and 6 points in 19 playoff games while averaging nearly 25 minutes of ice time.