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Canucks notebook

Alberts is ready if Hamhuis can’t play

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 4, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Canucks have spent the playoffs juggling defensemen. They have struggled to keep their blue liners healthy, as Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome and now Dan Hamhuis have fallen victim to injuries.

“Our back end has been the backbone of our team,’’ Henrik Sedin said. “We’ve rarely played with our top six Ds, whoever they are. I can’t even tell you. We’ve got nine Ds who can play. If you look at the San Jose series where Ehrhoff and Rome were down, we put in two NHL defensemen in their spots. That’s a big strength of our team.’’

Hamhuis left Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night early in the second period with an undisclosed injury after a hip check of Milan Lucic. He did not participate in yesterday’s practice, and coach Alain Vigneault said Hamhuis’s status tonight will be a game-time decision.

“Hammer’s been one of our top D all year long, and has been shutting down the other team’s top line in the playoffs,’’ said Andrew Alberts, a possible replacement for Hamhuis. “I’m not sure of his status, hopefully he’s back. But he’s a big loss.’’

Alberts, a former Bruin, was paired with Ehrhoff yesterday.

“I’d expect him to play well,’’ said Vigneault of Alberts. “He’s a big body. He’s a physical presence. Every time we’ve used Andrew, he’s played extremely well for us and hard. Whether he’s in the lineup or not, he’ll do a good job.’’

The Canucks used 13 defensemen during the regular season, and so far nine in the postseason.

“I’m waiting for definite word,’’ said Alberts of playing tonight. “It’s been since Game 3 of the Nashville series, so I’ll hopefully be out there, get a bump in early, make a couple quick plays, get into the game as soon as possible. Just make simple plays.’’

Malhotra could play Manny Malhotra, who has been out since he got hit by a puck in the eye March 16, skated in practice and is still day-to-day.

“If Manny does play, obviously he’s one of the best faceoff guys in the league, so he would be used a little bit more in our end, without a doubt,’’ Vigneault said.

It had been thought Malhotra was done for the season, but that may not be the case. Malhotra said the team would determine his availability for tonight after the morning skate.

“I realize the severity of the injury,’’ Malhotra said. “I realize the intensity of the moment. I realize the intensity of play has picked up since I last played.

“This is not me wanting to have a sentimental shift out there, be a part of it all. It’s a fact that I feel I could contribute something to the team. But more importantly, we’re on the right track. We’re heading where we need to be. Anybody in that room, any of our aces, anybody sitting out feels they can contribute, and the coaches feel that, we know we can do so.’’

Burrows moves on Alex Burrows, who was accused by the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron of biting his finger in Game 1, addressed the decision by the NHL to not suspend him. There was precedent for punishment, but the league decided the video evidence was not conclusive. “I’ve moved on,’’ Burrows said. “Now I’m focusing on a big game [tonight]. That’s what we’ve been doing all year — taking it one game at a time.’’ Asked about his conversation with Mike Murphy, the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations, Burrows said, “I’ve had a few calls with the league in the years. They’ve always been great. I really respect those people. They have a tough job. They have tough decisions to make. At the end of the day, he did a good job. I respect his decision. He was great. That’s all I can say about it.’’ . . . The Canucks stayed at a hotel last night, which Vigneault called a team decision.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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