Canucks D Keith Ballard nears return, will be game-time decision Monday

You know, it didn’t really feel like Keith Ballard was a “true” Vancouver Canucks defenseman until he finally suffered an injury.

The former Florida Panthers defenseman missed some time after an October 15 concussion, but the Vancouver Province reports that the valuable blueliner could very well return this week after passing many of the hurdles associated with recovering from a head injury. He might even play as early as Monday.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said that Ballard will be a game-time decision tomorrow morning.

“I would say he might be a game-time decision come tomorrow morning,” Vigneault added. “He felt really good yesterday (Saturday) and has been doing off-ice work for a few days now. He practised yesterday with the group, pracised today with the group, so we’ll see how he is tomorrow and decide then.”

Ballard was traded from the Florida Panthers with Victor Oreskovich to the Canucks in exchange for Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and the 25th pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (Quinton Howden). He has zero points in four games this season after playing all 82 games in 2009-10 to earn eight goals, 28 points and a -7 rating.

Sabres place Lehner on IR; Recall Lieuwen

Connor Brown, Robin Lehner
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They’re just one game into their regular season, but the Buffalo Sabres have already had to shift things around in their crease.

The Sabres announced that they have placed starting goaltender Robin Lehner on injured reserve after he was knocked out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury.

In a corresponding move, the club has recalled Nathan Lieuwen from their AHL affiliate in Rochester.

The 24-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he did have a 1-4-0 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage in seven games during the 2013-14 season.

Lieuwen was Buffalo’s sixth round pick, 167th overall, in the 2011 draft.

The Sabres also announced that they have loaned defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Linus Ullmark to the Rochester Americans (AHL).

McCabe was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against Ottawa, while Ullmark is being activated off I.R. after having double hip surgery during the off-season.



Chara ‘doubtful’ for game against rival Canadiens

Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara
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It looks like the Boston Bruins will be without their captain again on Saturday night.

Head coach Claude Julien told members of the media that Zdeno Chara is considered doubtful for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Chara suffered an upper-body injury during the preseason and he’s already been forced to miss Boston’s season opening loss to the Jets.

Per CSN, Chara says he’s improving but he won’t return to the lineup until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible.

“Every area of the injury is improving,” said Chara. “Hopefully it’s not long before I’m free of any kind of discomfort. That’s what we’re doing right now…we’re being patient. For sure you don’t want to come back, and be half of what you are…and basically hurting yourself and the team. And you’re putting yourself in a position where you could be missing more time. At this time of the season, I think it’s important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent.”

Based on the number of defensive mistakes they committed on Thursday, the Bruins need Chara back as soon as possible: