Sutter eyeing next week for return to Canucks lineup

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Brandon Sutter is rapidly progressing towards a return to the Vancouver Canucks lineup.

The 26-year-old center hasn’t played since Nov. 10. He had sports-hernia surgery shortly thereafter.

“From where it was two weeks ago to now has been a huge difference,” he told reporters today.

The Canucks host Florida tonight then hit the road for six games.

When might Sutter be back?

“I’m hoping somewhere towards the end of the road trip, but if not, those couple of games at home before the [All-Star break],” he said.

The past two months, his absence has been felt. Bo Horvat, only 20, has been forced to log many of the tough defensive minutes that Sutter was acquired and signed to play. Vancouver has gone 9-12-5 without him, with 21 power-play goals surrendered.

Now, with Sutter close to returning — and defenseman Luca Sbisa even closer — it’s going to make for some interesting decisions for GM Jim Benning. Will Vancouver explore trading pending unrestricted free agents like Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata, or will it keep them for a run at the postseason?

The Canucks, despite a modest 16-16-10 record, are still very much alive in the playoff race, thanks to the Pacific Division.

Hamhuis, by the way, is “about a month away” from returning to action, according to coach Willie Desjardins. The 33-year-old defenseman has been out since taking a shot to the face on Dec. 9.

The trade deadline is Feb. 29, so Hamhuis should be back before then.

Related: Benning says Canucks have ‘too much pride’ to tank