While it's uncertain if Vancouver Canucks centre Manny Malhotra will even play hockey again, the Canucks did receive some good news on Saturday on the injury front.
Kevin Bieksa, who's been out since February 17 with a broken left foot, is expected to be back in the lineup Wednesday night when the Canucks take on the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
Alexander Edler, out since January 26 after having back surgery, and Andrew Alberts, out since February 15 with a broken wrist, is expected to begin skating on their own and will do that until the end of March. At the beginning of April, it is projected the two will begin to practice with the team.
However, to get both Edler and Alberts back into the lineup before the playoffs, it will require some creativity to create sufficient space to activate both players from long-term injured reserve even if Malhotra remains out by early April.
Barring anymore injuries and setbacks in rehabilitation for Edler and Alberts, the Canucks are set to have eight healthy defenceman if Chris Tanev is re-assigned to the minors and a $24.1 million defense.
I think it's unanimous in Canucks Nation that we would not accept the decision to scratch Keith Ballard in favour of Aaron Rome in the playoffs.
What about Andrew Alberts?
Rogers Sportsnet reporter Dan Murphy suggested on his Twitter account that Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault could go with Alberts over Keith Ballard against larger opponents like the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks because of his size at 6'5" and 215 pounds.
Alberts brings a component that no other defenceman on the team can bring—the ability to intimidate the opposition with his size and his ability to throw bone-crushing hits as well as the ability to clear the front of the net.
His unique attributes could be important to a potential Stanley Cup run by the Vancouver Canucks.
Would you accept such a decision? I wouldn't.
Underutilized defenceman Keith Ballard is small at 5'11" and 208 pounds and cannot be expected of to clear the front of the net, but has the ability to maneuver with the puck in traffic and block a ton of shots. It should be noted Ballard was third in the NHL with 201 blocks in the 2009-10 season and leads the Canucks this year with an average of 1.71 blocks per game.
Rome can bring the physicality element in spurts, but does not bring anything value-added long-term to the Canucks lineup. He does not stand out in any particular area of the game, but can log ice time in any situation and any role, perfect for a depth defenceman used to replace any given injured player.
Both Alberts and Ballard do bring something value-added to the lineup, so why not go with seven defenceman in the playoffs?
I don't know how many times the Canucks ended up playing with five defenceman for most of a game because one gets injured.
If the Canucks are going to go deep in the playoffs, they cannot play the likes of Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Edler over 25 minutes a night.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis has acknowledged playing for the Vancouver Canucks comes with a hectic travel schedule and fatigued players which have contributed to injuries to the defence.
All eight of the Canucks defenceman are capable of playing top four minutes, so why not go with seven defenceman and spread out the ice-time evenly amongst them at 17 minutes a night?
If you play Alexander Edler, Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo on the power play, why not hold them off the penalty kill and play only Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Andrew Alberts and Kevin Bieksa?
The fourth line will be without a winger, but if Friday night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes is any indication, it appears Alain Vigneault has reverted back to playing a three line game.
Those four to six minutes on the fourth line can be easily filled by double shifting Raffi Torres who neither sees power-play or penalty-killing time.
Dressing seven defenceman will enable the Canucks to get Andrew Alberts and his size into the lineup without taking out Keith Ballard's shot blocking abilities.
It will ensure our defencemen will not be overplayed, reduce fatigue and reduce the increased risk of injury.
What would you do?