VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks sent Kevin Bieksa to their AHL affiliate in Winnipeg, Manitoba for a conditioning assignment, paving the way for his return to the NHL more than three months after a skate sliced deep into his calf muscle.
The defenseman has missed 46 games since Nashville forward Vernon Fiddler's skate dug into his right leg as the two got tangled in a corner during a Nov. 1 game. Bieksa began bleeding and blood soaked through his socks as he was helped off the ice. He had surgery the next day to repair damage to the calf and other muscles leading to his Achilles tendon.
Bieksa, who was tops among Canucks defensemen with 42 points, including 12 goals, last season, didn't resume skating until Feb. 1, exactly three months after the injury.
The 26-year-old defenseman could play for Manitoba in Chicago on Wednesday night, during back-to-back game in Grand Rapids Friday and Saturday, and again in Peoria Sunday.
He could return sooner to the Canucks, who wrap up a two-game road trip in Nashville on Thursday before coming home for three games in Vancouver, starting Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
Vancouver drafted the 6-foot, 205-pound Bieksa in the fifth round, 151st overall, in 2001.