For the Vancouver Canucks, the NHL All-Star Break could not have come at a more opportune time.
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The Vancouver Canucks have just one more game left to go until the team’s top two centremen are healthily back in the lineup. That will happen when Captain Henrik Sedin returns after the All-Star Break — precisely 12 weeks since second-line centre Brandon Sutter‘s injury.
The Canucks enter the All-Star Break without Captain Henrik and defenceman Dan Hamhuis who is out with facial fracture. Henrik figures to be back for the February 4th game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. As you can see, these are key players who are suffering injuries and has made it difficult for GM Jim Benning to gauge the organization’s full potential.
Sutter will play as the top centre between Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen tonight against the Nashville Predators. The rest of the lineup stays intact as it was at the end of the six-game Eastern roadtrip, the one exception being Jared McCann getting a night off and Adam Cracknell replacing Mike Zalewski as the fourth-line pivot.
Zalewski was sent down to make roster space for Sutter as he came off the long-term injury reserve. But roster space isn’t the only issue. In fact, cap space is the biggest issue for the Vancouver team that is set to play a Nashville squad that is 4-5-1 in its last ten games.
As Sutter’s LTIR cap relief comes off the books, the Canucks enter the day about one million dollars above the cap ceiling. It would be interesting to see how Jim Benning & Co. deal with this interesting situation. They always find a way out — or do they?
Anyhow, Sutter’s return is a definite upgrade for the Canucks’ on-ice product. He seems eager to go. The Canucks definitely missed his faceoff skills and the right-handed shot.
Here is another Vancouver Canuck who nearly got forgotten by everyone. Hamhuis has been out since the middle of December after getting hit by a slapshot in the jaws. Result? Gruesome sight for the NHL and a liquid meal plan for Hammer. I though being thrown around as a potential trade bait as a pending free agent is bad enough. A liquid meal?
But to many Vancouver fans’ relief, his return might not be too far off in the future. Hamhuis participated in full practice yesterday — with a full face cage on. Expect him to favour the full cage for the rest of this season, perhaps for the rest of his career. The opportunity to judge whether the cage impairs his on-ice vision will come soon, as Hamhuis eyes a potential post-All Stars return.
In case you were wondering the old school gear is set to be worn for the February 13th game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both Sedins will be in them (unless the hockey gods unfairly throw them into another injury) as well as Hamhuis, by the sounds of it. But like Sutter, Hamhuis will have to bump a defenceman in his return.
Or does Hamhuis get bumped before his return? Trading an injured player was never a big thing in the NHL, though. Expect Yannik Weber or Matt Bartkowski to get the cut to make room for Hamhuis. Troubling times for the “fringe players,” if you ask me.
As injuries dwindle down and the roster gels, it is decision time for Trader Jim. Who gets the cut and who doesn’t? Who gets 24 hours’ worth of vulnerability on the waiver wire back down to the AHL? The IR may be settling down, but the lineup isn’t. More to come, I am sure.