Milan Lucic; Dan Hamhuis;

Canucks defensive depth may be tested again with Dan Hamhuis banged up


One of the lasting memories of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals is Dan Hamhuis’ huge hip check on Milan Lucic that sent Lucic going end over end in front of the bench. The hit led to a bit of a scuffle that saw David Krejci go off for cross checking Hamhuis for the hit. Hamhuis came out worse for the wear from it all though leaving the game with what Canucks coach Alain Vigneault kiddingly described as a “mid-body” injury.

After today’s media gather, Vigneault says that Hamhuis is day-to-day (aren’t we all?) with that mysterious “mid-body” injury leaving his starting spot in doubt for Saturday’s Game 2. Much like how things went in the regular season for Vancouver when it comes to defensive injuries, they’ll press on and use their depth to their advantage. With Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, and rookie Chris Tanev waiting in the wings for their shot to play in the finals Vigneault is comfortable with what he’s got.

“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.”

During the regular season the Canucks played a total of 13 defensemen thanks to various maladies that kept the Canucks shorthanded along the blue line at different times. The list of names is staggering. You’ve already seen guys like Hamhuis, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Aaron Rome start in this series and you’ve seen Alberts, Tanev, and Ballard in the playoffs. During the season they trotted out the likes of Lee Sweatt, Evan Oberg, Ryan Parent, and Yann Sauve to help patch holes in the defense. Many teams that have to go that deep into their minor league well crumble thanks to the lack of depth. Instead, Vancouver has stayed strong and flourished.

While Hamhuis is an important defensive cog in their lineup, if he has to come out each of Alberts, Ballard, and Tanev offer different things to their game. Alberts is a physical player and one who used to play for the Bruins. Ballard was a starter for most of the season before being edged out of the lineup in favor of Rome. Tanev is young but well liked by the Canucks although they’d likely rather not put him in the awkward spot of appearing in the finals. In the Stanley Cup finals veteran credibility is huge, especially to Alain Vigneault.

While Hamhuis’ game is steady, putting either Alberts or Ballard has its risks as they’re both penalty liabilities. There’s also the rust factor involved with guys who don’t see a lot of playing time and that’s something Boston would likely look to take advantage of. If it comes down to that and Hamhuis can’t go, Boston will certainly look to push the issue but if Vancouver doesn’t bend nor break, don’t be surprised… They’re pretty used to this by now.

Video: Mike Fisher ends Nashville’s nasty goal drought

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No, the Nashville Predators did not forget how to score goals … or at least they were lifted from that amnesia on Wednesday.

Mike Fisher lifted the curse 13:52 into the first period of tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. You can watch that rare beast in the video above.

They had been shut out for three straight games and pretty close to four in pure game time.

On this subject, PHT’s Jason Brough asked Predators GM David Poile if he was considering moving a defenseman to improve in another area earlier today.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer