Canucks finally get good news about blue-line

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VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (AP) - The Vancouver Canucks have finally gotten some good news about their defensemen.

Dan Hamhuis, one of five key defensemen injured during the last four weeks, will play Monday against the visiting Montreal Canadiens after missing five games with a concussion.

Keith Ballard, out seven games with a knee sprain, could also suit up.

“For any team, it’s big to get a top D-man or a forward back,” Sami Salo said after Monday’s practice.

“(Hamhuis) moves the puck well, plays against the other team’s top line, shuts them down. He’s pretty good offensively as well so he’s a big part of this team.”

Hamhuis is coming off a third career concussion but surprised team doctors with his quick recovery.

He was crushed into the end glass Feb. 9 by Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and was unconscious on the ice for about half a minute. It was the hardest hit of the three that produced concussions.

“The others were just little knocks to the head but I felt way worse the next day,” Hamhuis said.

“It was a quick recovery, considering. I was quite symptom free most of the time, just dealing with some minor head pressure.

“The doctors have been a little bit surprised about how quickly things have moved along but I’m certainly happy about it.”

The Canucks have clung to the top spot in the NHL despite the full medical room.

There are no projected return dates for Kevin Bieksa, who has missed two games with a broken foot; Andrew Alberts, out three games with a broken wrist; or Alex Edler, sidelined 11 games by back surgery.

Edler, who developed a more physical game in the playoffs last spring, is a key component of the Vancouver power play with eight goals and 24 assists.

Bieksa is having his best season, leading the NHL at plus-26 goals playing at even strength.

Alberts, a trade deadline pickup last season, has become more comfortable with his teammates.

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