One game into the NHL season, and the Vancouver Canucks are already patching the dam.
Alex Bolduc, who centres the fourth line between wingers Tanner Glass and Guillaume Desbiens, is headed for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan Tuesday on a suspected right ankle injury. Bolduc, who could have a high ankle sprain, temporarily left Saturday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings, and will miss Monday's Rogers Arena encounter with the Florida Panthers.
He will be replaced by Jeff Tambellini, a free-agent addition this summer who served as the spare forward for the 2010-11 season opener. Tambellini's father Steve was a Canucks executive for nearly two decades before becoming general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. The son grew up in suburban Vancouver as a Canucks fan, but has yet to establish himself as an NHL regular despite playing in parts of five seasons.
"It makes everything a little more meaningful," Tambellini said of making his regular-season Canucks debut in front of friends and family members.
Tambellini, 26, said he grew up playing centre, but has limited experience at the position as a professional. Head coach Alain Vigneault said that his system doesn't always require pivots to back-check, and that wingers are sometimes charged with the being the low-man in the defensive zone.
But the face-off circle is another matter. Tambellini has taken just 11 NHL draws in the last five years. That could limit where Vigneault uses his fourth line against Florida.
At one point last season, Vigneault moved Rick Rypien to centre on the fourth line, but the experiment was short lived because the winger couldn't win face-offs. Rypien remains sidelined with a rib injury, but could return Wednesday for a road game against the Anaheim Ducks.
If Vancouver eventually needs another natural centreman, the top candidates on the farm include Joel Perrault, Cody Hodgson and Mario Bliznak. The Canucks are carrying eight defencemen on their 23-man roster.
The Canucks and Panthers have made three trades since June's draft, and there will be several familiar faces on opposing benches Monday.
Enforcer Darcy Hordichuk, dealt away by Vancouver just last week, and winger Steve Bernier will be facing their old mates for the first time as Panthers. Bernier had two assists in his Florida debut Sunday, a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
On the other bench, defenceman Keith Ballard will be up against his former Florida teammates, and head coach Peter DeBoer, with whom he often argued last season.
"I've got a lot of respect for Pete," Ballard said. "I appreciate the way he pushed me, and that he was never really satisfied and always wanted more."