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Canucks Report: Hodgson's fourth line audition

Monday, 21.02.2011 / 6:42 PM / News
By Nolan Kelly
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Canucks Report: Hodgson\'s fourth line audition
February 21, 2011

HODGSON'S FOURTH LINE AUDITION

By Nolan Kelly

Rookie Cody Hodgson has been called up from Manitoba to centre the Canucks fourth line tomorrow night when the team hosts the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Arena.

“To play at this level it’s a great opportunity,” said Hodgson. “The last time I was up here, it was a great learning experience to be with these guys; just practicing with them I think I am getting better every day”.

With 20 games to go in the regular season the Canucks are still searching for the right mix on the fourth line.

“I think there are a lot of things up in the air,” said Coach Vigneault. “Obviously our first three lines are pretty well set. We have tried different combinations this year, as far as fourth lines and still haven’t come up with a final decision yet.”

For Hodgson, it’s an audition of sorts. With three games to go before the trading deadline, he will have a chance to prove that he is the centre Coach Vigneault is looking for.

“We’ve got a few games here before the trading deadline and it’s another opportunity for him to get some experience and for us to see where he is as far as his overall progression. He’s a natural centreman.”

“We’ve tried different things, Mike (Gillis) is always looking to see if we can improve this team, sometimes you can improve it internally and sometimes you can’t so, were looking at all the options here and then we are going to decide.”

Hodgson recently played a five game stint with the Canucks, receiving high praise from Vigneault for his efforts.

“The games that we’ve used him, he has been effective,” said Vigneault. “He has been dependable at both ends of the rink and that is definitely an option right now that we’re looking at.”

After the five games, Hodgson was sent back to Manitoba in an effort to get him more playing time. At the time, Hodgson was returning from an orbital fracture which caused him to miss six weeks.

Regardless of whether Hodgson sticks with the big club, Coach Vigneault is happy with the overall improvement in the young prospect’s game.

“I like the progression that Cody has made in a short amount of time and that’s why we want to give him a couple more games here. I think for me, he gets to where he needs to get, and he competes hard in those short areas for puck battles and that’s what you like to see I think that if you go back a year, year and a half, everything is on the right track and he is progressing.”

HAMHUIS BACK, BALLARD NOT FAR BEHIND

Dan Hamhuis makes his return to the Canucks lineup tomorrow night after missing five games with a concussion, suffered February 9th against the Anaheim Ducks.

Hamhuis is looking forward to the return.

“It’s tough being away, you just kind of feel out of the loop,” said Hamhuis. “Fortunately or unfortunately, we have big group of IR guys to hang out with right now,” Hamhuis joked.

“That makes it better than just being by yourself, but it’s never fun being away and obviously you just try to get back as quick as you can.”

Hamhuis stated he was ready to go for last Saturday's game against the Dallas Stars, but was held out for precautionary measures.

“The team has been really patient with me. I told them I wanted to play, but the doctors and trainers just wanted to give me another game, wait another 3-4 days, and it was probably the right decision. With injuries like that you don’t want to let other things cloud your judgment.”

Fellow sick bay defenseman Keith Ballard practiced with the team today for the first time since spraining his MCL against the Ottawa Senators, one game before the Hamhuis’ injury.

“There is minimal swelling, and it felt pretty good so, it’s been a pretty good progression over the past week,” said Ballard.

“The pain is still going to be there, the area is a bit sensitive, but the doctors have said it’s healed, so it’s just a matter of getting back into shape and getting going again. We’re just going to see how it responds after the skate today.”

Ballard will be a game time decision tomorrow night.

With the return of Hamhuis, rookie defenseman, Evan Oberg was sent back down to Manitoba. Oberg did not look out of place in his third and fourth career NHL games.

“I got to see him play a few games in the AHL, he looked really good, and they’ve been able to step in and do an awesome job,” said fellow defenseman Sami Salo.