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Kesler, Tanev to return for Canucks against Wild

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks second-line center Ryan Kesler and top-four defenseman Christopher Tanev will each return from a hand injury to play against the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

Kesler did not play Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues after hurting his left hand blocking a shot during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and Tanev has missed seven games since injuring his right thumb blocking a shot against the Edmonton Oilers in late January.

They are welcome additions to the Canucks, who snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 1-0 win against St. Louis.

Kesler leads the team with 20 goals and is tops among NHL forwards in average ice time at 22:12 per game. He plays on the top power-play and penalty-kill units for the Canucks. He was injured by an Ilya Kovalchuk shot in the preliminary round in Sochi but played the final four games for the United States before returning here.

"He has been our most consistent guy," Canucks coach John Tortorella said. "He's been a horse, so it's a really good thing for our lineup. It kind of slots some other guys where they should be, so we're happy."

Tanev is lesser known and plays a less offensive role, but his impact is big for the Canucks. The 24-year-old was averaging almost 21 minutes per game in a top-four role and anchoring the penalty kill.

"He has been our steadiest guy and we have missed him terribly," Tortorella said. "He settles things down. For such a young man just beginning to explore himself as a player, he is a huge part to our back end. There will be some rust but we are excited to get him back."

Tanev still is wearing a brace on his right hand and said he will wear a specially reinforced glove against the Wild.

"It's nice to finally get back in there. It's been four weeks and change here," Tanev said. "I'm sure it's going to be a battle."

Rookie goalie Eddie Lack, who is coming off a 20-save shutout of St. Louis, will start again ahead of Roberto Luongo, who played one game for Canada at the Olympics.

"He didn't have a good game, he had a very good game, so we'll come back with him," Tortorella said.

Coming off a 3-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers the night before, the Wild were hoping to get center Mikko Koivu back from a fractured ankle sustained Jan. 4. But after a lengthy skate Friday morning, Koivu, who had surgery on the ankle, said he isn't ready.

"Wait another day and get a good team practice on Sunday and look at it again," Koivu said. "It's getting better, it's slowly getting there, and I am getting more comfortable on skates but still not quite where I want to be, especially battles and things like that. Now I just have to put the emotions away and just be smart and wait another day."

Defenseman Marco Scandella is close to returning from a knee injury sustained right before the Olympic break, but coach Mike Yeo said he wouldn't play against the Canucks. Defenseman Clayton Stoner will play despite dislocating a finger during a fight against the Oilers, and rookie backup goalie Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 21 shots Thursday, starts again ahead of veteran Niklas Backstrom, who has an abdominal injury.

"Our hope is he can continue to play the way he has," Yeo said of Kuemper.

Here are the projected lineups for the Wild and Canucks, who might dress Raphael Diaz as a seventh defenseman:

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Dany Heatley - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Stephane Veilleux - Erik Haula - Torrey Mitchell

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Nate Prosser

Clayton Stoner - Keith Ballard

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Mike Rupp, Steven Kampfer

Injured: Marco Scandella (knee), Mikko Koivu (ankle), Jason Zucker (leg), Josh Harding (illness)

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows

Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Jannik Hansen

David Booth - Brad Richardson - Zack Kassian

Tom Sestito - Jordan Schroeder - Zac Dalpe

Alexander Edler - Jason Garrison

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev

Ryan Stanton - Kevin Bieksa

Eddie Lack

Roberto Luongo

Scratched: Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz, Kellan Lain

Injured: Mike Santorelli (shoulder surgery), Andrew Alberts (concussion)

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