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Team Canada's Cody Hodgson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson (Tom Hanson)
Team Canada's Cody Hodgson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson (Tom Hanson)

Cody Hodgson: help or hindrance? Add to ...

We'll know more Wednesday, when the Canucks take a morning skate, but Alain Vigneault's admission that he is considering Cody Hodgson to centre his third line should make for good debate until the Game 1 lineup is set.

Fresh off a call-up from the AHL's Manitoba Moose, the Canucks' top prospect practised between Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen Monday, and could make his NHL postseason debut against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The third-line hole is Vancouver's biggest problem heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it's compounded by the loss of winger Raffi Torres, who will be serving a suspension for the first two games. Vigneault said his choice to replace Manny Malhotra as the No. 3 centre has come down to Hodgson and Raymond.

Unlike Raymond, who was playing in the spot for the final week of the season, Hodgson is a natural centre and allows Vigneault to use that line for key defensive-zone draws. It's an area where Malhotra, out for the year with an eye injury, will be missed most.

Hodgson wouldn't kill penalties, another Malhotra specialty, but he could be a useful power-play weapon, and he is a heady, positional player. The 21-year-old is not fleet afoot, but he has more than a fighting chance of being a responsible defender, even if he'll never be a Selke candidate.

But most importantly for Vigneault, if Hodgson proves worthy, then he has a permanent fix to what could be a re-occurring problem down the playoff road. And he wouldn't have to play Raymond out of position.

Then there's the flip side, which begins with Hodgson's inexperience. He has played just 71 professional games, just eight in the NHL, and none in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He's minus-12 in the AHL.

He had moments during his NHL cameo, but they weren't sustained enough to merit as much as 12 minutes in any game. He had a chance to nail down the job as fourth-line centre, but the Canucks still traded for Maxim Lapierre at the deadline, and dispatched Hodgson to the minors. That was just six weeks ago.

The upside is that Hodgson recaptures some of the magic that made him a dominant junior, and a big-stage player for Hockey Canada, while boosting the team's playoff prospects. And if it doesn't go well, than Vigneault will be criticized for straying from the group of forwards that got him to the Presidents' Trophy.

Follow on Twitter: @mattsekeres

 

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