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Canucks defenceman Hamhuis ready to return from eight-game foot injury

MONTREAL - Defenceman Dan Hamhuis is set to return to the Vancouver Canucks lineup and that will push Keith Ballard to the pressbox.

Coach Alain Vigneault said Hamhuis will return after missing eight games with a foot injury for a game Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens. He will replace Ballard, who has struggled in four games since returning from a concussion.

''Dan is ready to play and I told Keith he wasn't going,'' said Vigneault. ''I really think (Ballard's) game is coming along.

''He had a little setback because of the concussion and missed a few days of work and that permitted other guys to step into the lineup and play really well. This game is about playing the guys who are playing best and right now I feel the other guys are playing better than him.''

Hamhuis and Ballard were the team's key off-season acquisitions on defence but neither has had a chance to integrate fully with his new team.

Vigneault said Ballard was also set back by missing training time in the off-season after hip surgery.

''We have total confidence in this young man,'' he said.

Hamhuis played only five games for Vancouver before his injury, with more than 25 minutes of ice time in two of the games, but Vigneault said he will be eased into action at first.

''It was great to see everyone playing so well,'' said Hamhuis, whose team took a six-game winning streak into Montreal. ''I'm excited to get back into the lineup and I hope to help keep things rolling.

''The injury was unfortunate. The first month is an important time to get to know your teammates and fit into the mix. To be out for a month was tough. It's just bad timing, but it's a long season and I've got time to make up for it.''



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