Vancouver will welcome back two familiar faces on Sunday.
D-man Luca Sbisa, who’s been out since Dec. 3 with a hand injury, draws into the lineup when the Canucks take on the Islanders in a matinee at Barclays, the club announced. Winger Jannik Hansen, who’s been playing on the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, will play for the first time since Jan. 6.
Sbisa has been out for 19 straight games. He, along with Dan Hamhuis (facial injury) have been shelved for well over a month, meaning the Canucks have put together a patchwork defense that, on Friday in Carolina, was comprised of Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Matt Bartkowski, Taylor Fedun, Alex Biega and Ben Hutton.
When healthy, Sbisa was a regular fixture in Vancouver’s top six, though his penchant for erratic play and questionable decision making made him a whipping boy for fans and media alike. He had four points in 18 games this season, but was one of the club’s most physical players (31 hits).
As for Hansen, his presence will be big. His 12 goals and 22 points through the first 41 games of the season made him one of the club’s most productive scorers. He’s on pace to challenge his career-high of 39 points, set during the ’11-12 campaign.
Plenty of storylines to follow in Pittsburgh today, as the Pens host the ‘Canes — newly-acquired Carl Hagelin will debut on the club’s second line with Phil Kessel and Evegni Malkin, while defenseman Kris Letang is out after getting hit against Tampa Bay on Friday.
It’ll be interesting to watch Hagelin play alongside another speedster in Kessel. One of the theories as to why Hagelin struggled to fit in Anaheim is that his pace of play didn’t mesh with the Ducks’ attack. The Swede had just four goals in 43 games with Anaheim.
As for Letang, the injury doesn’t sound serious, but it will keep him out of a battle of two teams jockeying for playoff contention.
Carolina comes into today’s action on 48 points, two back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh is one point back of Carolina, with 47.
Bryan Bickell is off to Rockford.
For the second time this season, the burly Chicago forward has cleared waivers and been demoted to the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate.
Bickell was sent down in November and spent a month with the IceHogs, scoring an impressive 14 points in 12 games. Chicago was hopeful the minor-league stint would kickstart the 29-year-old’s campaign, but it failed to work — Bickell has just two points, no goals, in 16 games since his recall.
With this year and ’16-17 left on his four-year, $16 million deal, Bickell and his $4M average annual cap hit are a problem for the cap-strapped ‘Hawks — and, unless some trade or buyout can be reached, they’ll continue to be into the future.
Chicago can only “bury” roughly one-quarter of his hit in the AHL, so there’s not a ton of financial relief to be had.
Teemu Pulkkinen was off to a nice start for the Red Wings before a shoulder injury sidelined him in early December.
Now, he’s back — and he’ll be looking to regain that form.
On Sunday, Detroit announced that Pulkkinen would be back in the lineup against Philly, marking the first time he’ll play in 18 games.
The 23-year-old Finn had, as mentioned above, enjoyed a solid start to the campaign, scoring six goals and 11 points — both career highs, established in just 24 games played.
Pulkkinen will be one to watch moving forward. The shoulder injury was pretty significant — he suffered a dislocation on a hit from Arizona’s Martin Hanzal — and given Pulkkinen is best known for his booming shot, the ailment could play a factor.
Arizona has placed veteran agitator Steve Downie on waivers, per TSN.
Downie, 28, has appeared in just two games this month, which included a 7:12 stint in a 2-0 loss to the Devils yesterday. He’s been a healthy scratch on a number of occasions recently and, prior to that, had missed a fairly significant period of time with an upper-body injury.
Signed to a one-year, $1.75 million deal this summer, Downie was expected to bring his trademark grit and energy to the Coyotes, but it didn’t really materialize. He wasn’t one of head coach Dave Tippett’s favorites and, all told, had just three goals and six points in 25 games while averaging less than 10 minutes per night.