Uncertainty about Malhotra, Hamhuis

Canucks forward Manny Malhotra takes part in practice at the University of British Columbia's...

Canucks forward Manny Malhotra takes part in practice at the University of British Columbia's Father Bauer rink in Vancouver, B.C., June 3, 2011. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:53 PM ET

VANCOUVER - Given the number of injuries his Vancouver Canucks have endured this season, Alain Vigneault has been forced to shuffle his deck almost as much as the blackjack dealers at the nearby Edgewater Casino.

That's not about to change in the Stanley Cup final.

With question marks dangling over the heads of defenceman Dan Hamhuis and forward Manny Malhotra, Vigneault's juggling act likely will extend into Game 2 Saturday at Rogers Arena.

The Canucks have used 13 different defencemen dating back to the beginning of the season, which makes their first place finish overall that much more impressive.

Hamhuis did not practise Friday, so the consensus is he will not be in the lineup Saturday against the Boston Bruins. That was not confirmed by the tight-lipped Vigneault, who would say only that Hamhuis and Malhotra (eye) are day to day.

If Hamhuis can't go, many observers figure Andrew Alberts will get the nod, especially since he lined up alongside Christian Ehrhoff during Friday's workout.

One aspect that Alberts brings to the table is familiarity with the Bruins, having played for Boston from 2005 to 2008.

"There are only about four guys left from when I was there but I do know some of the tendencies of the guys who are left," Alberts said.

Should he get the call, Alberts might be used to clear out any Bruins who might be loitering in front of the Vancouver net. At 6-foot-5, he could handle most of the players on the Boston roster.

Except for 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara, that is.

Bruins coach Claude Julien has been putting Chara in front of the opposing net on the power play in an attempt to create chaos for the opposing goaltender. For Alberts, trying to move his former teammate out of goalie Roberto Luongo's way might be futile.

"He's too big," Alberts said with a laugh. "You either have to block the shots coming through or tie up his stick. But once he claims his spot, he's there to stay."

Meanwhile, there is as much uncertainty about Malhotra as there is about Hamhuis.

Having been out since mid-March with an injured left eye, Malhotra appeared eager to return for Game 1. But an apparent setback left him sitting in the press box for the Canucks' 1-0 victory, leaving Canucks fans to wonder if he had played his final game of 2010-11.

Now the door for his potential comeback appears open again, especially after he returned to the ice Friday from a three-day absence.

But before Canucks fans start pencilling Malhotra's name into the lineup, know this: His left eye appeared to be much more closed on Friday than it was six days ago.

"I'll see how I feel after our morning skate and we'll make a decision at that point," Malhotra said. "From one day to the next, things have changed. I didn't feel proper to go on the ice so I took a couple of days off.

"I obviously don't want this to be a sideshow, We always talk about (it) in our dressing room ... the whole is much greater than the individuals."

If Malhotra and/or Hamhuis are not able to play, Vigneault won't panic. Far from it. When you've shuffled the deck as much as he has this season, lineup juggling is just a part of everyday life.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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