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Hamhuis injury could trigger blueline shuffle for Canucks

By Steve Keating

Dan Hamhuis's status remained unclear Thursday after the defenseman limped off the ice early in the second period of the Canucks' 1-0 win in Game One with what appeared to be an ankle or knee injury after hip-checking Bruins' Milan Lucic along the boards.

"Day-to-day, that's as specific as we get," Canucks coach Vigneault told reporters when asked for a Hamhuis injury update.

One of Vancouver's great strengths this season has been their depth on the blueline where they have employed 14 defensemen.

But Hamhuis's absence would still be a blow for the Canucks, the 28-year-old having been one of Vancouver's top playoff performers.

"We've used, I think, it's 13-or-14 defense this year," said Vigneault. "Obviously you prefer not to have injuries but we've had them during the regular season.

"We've just dealt with them. We've done the same thing in the playoffs.

"So nothing's going to change."

If Hamhuis is unable to play, Vigneault will have several options in Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Chris Tanev.

Ballard, acquired by the Canucks in an off-season trade with the Florida Panthers, has appeared in just nine of Vancouver's 19 playoff games, unable to gain Vigneault's confidence and lock up a regular assignment.

But the puck-moving defenseman has maintained a positive attitude throughout a difficult season that has been interrupted by concussion and knee injuries and says he is ready to go if called on.

"It's a test mentally and physically to stay sharp and to make sure you're ready," said Ballard. "You realize how important the games are and that you have to be ready to go at any time.

"You want to be out there and be a part of that."

Canucks forward Manny Malhotra was also listed as day-to-day.

Malhotra, who suffered a career-threatening eye injury in March when he was hit by a deflected puck, has made a remarkable recovery but has not been on the ice since Tuesday, raising speculation he may not return until next season.

(Editing by Ian Ransom)