VANCOUVER Defenceman Kevin Bieksa will make his return to the Vancouver Canucks lineup on Thursday after missing six games with a broken bone in his left foot.
Bieksa, 27, was told he would miss two weeks and right on schedule he will be back for the first game of a home-and-home series against the Calgary Flames. The Grimsby, Ont. native will wear a protective Kevlar pad on the top of his left skate as the Canucks seek to extend their four-game winning streak.
"It was an injury where, once the bone was healed enough, I could get right back on the ice," said Bieksa, who practised on Wednesday. "They are fun games to play in, so I'm glad back for these."
Meanwhile, Vancouver right winger Steve Bernier is not fit to play and will miss the game. Bernier left a Monday game against Detroit in the first period with left foot and shoulder ailments. Head coach Alain Vigneault expects the Quebec City native to practise on Friday and dress for the return match in Calgary on Saturday.
Alexandre Bolduc, 23, will take Bernier's place in the lineup and make his NHL debut. He will centre the fourth line between Darcy Hordichuk and Mike Brown. That spot is normally filled by Ryan Johnson, who will miss the next three to five weeks with a fractured finger and a broken bone in his foot.
"Right now, it's more excitement," Bolduc said of his emotions after the morning skate. "As it gets more towards game time, I'm sure there will be more nerves."
Curtis Sanford, who has won three straight games, will start in goal for Vancouver. Calgary counters with Miikka Kiprusoff.
The Canucks, who have earned points in 10 straight games, swept a home-and-home series with the Flames in October to kick off the 2008-09 NHL season. Those victories have propelled Vancouver to a 5-0-1 record against the Northwest Division. The Canucks sit first in the division, five points ahead of the Flames, who are tied for second.
"We definitely know how well they're playing," Calgary right wing Jarome Iginla said. "But at the same time, it's a chance to knock them off and get some momentum for ourselves."