The Vancouver Canucks may be getting healthy at the right time.
When the Canucks meet the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, they also may have three injured stars back in the lineup.
Starting goaltender Dan Cloutier (knee surgery) and defensemen Sami Salo (shoulder) and Ed Jovanovski are expected to return to the Canucks during a two-game California road trip that concludes Monday in Los Angeles.
Cloutier partially tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when Anaheim forward Rob Niedermayer ran into him in the crease during the first period of a Nov. 20 game and was expected to miss the rest of the season.
Salo hurt his shoulder while competing for Finland in February at the Turin Olympics. Jovanovski underwent surgery in February for what was termed a lower abdominal injury and missed playing for Canada at the Olympics.
The return of their top goaltender and two defensemen couldn’t come at a better time for the Canucks. With 87 points, Vancouver starts play in seventh place in the Western Conference, one point Colorado and Anaheim, which are tied for fifth.
Vancouver also has a one-point lead over Edmonton, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.
The Canucks dropped a 2-1 decision in a shootout Friday to Minnesota. Alexander Auld, who inherited the starting goaltender’s job after Cloutier’s injury, made 21 saves in regulation and overtime, but allowed Mikko Koivu to score the lone goal in the shootout.
Canucks head coach Marc Crawford was pleased despite the result.
“You’ve got to be looking at things this time of the year with a glass half-full mentality,” he said. We played a heck of a game, it was a close game and the shootout didn’t go our way. You take all the good things we did for a tough, difficult, hard-fought point.”
Anson Carter scored in regulation for Vancouver, giving him goals in three straight games. He has failed to record a point in two games versus Anaheim this season.
Anaheim has dropped three straight to the Canucks at Arrowhead Pond, but is looking to tie a season high with its sixth straight home win overall.
The Ducks extended their home winning streak and handed Dallas its first shootout loss in 12 games with a 5-4 victory on Friday.
“We needed that,” Niedermayer said. “We had two losses in a row and the way everyone else has been playing, we needed to get back on track.”
The Ducks last won six in a row at home from Oct. 14-Nov. 1.