According to reports, Keith Ballard of the Vancouver Canucks will sit as a healthy scratch for the first time in his career tonight in Montreal.  Ballard has had his share of struggles with the Canucks this season after being acquired in a 5-player deal with the Florida Panthers on draft day.

Ballard played just 12:06 during the Canucks’ 6-4 win over Detroit on Saturday, and has struggled with injuries and consistency early this season.  Dan Hamhuis returns to the lineup tonight, although, Aaron Rome is also scheduled to slot in to replace Ballard.  Ballard has five years remaining on a six-year pact that he signed with the Florida Panthers prior to the 2008-09 season with the Panthers.  Ballard comes in at an annual cap-hit of $4.2 million, thus joining Ilya Kovalchuk in the category of the league’s more expensive healthy scratches.

The Province has more on the story, including Alain Vigneault on the decision to scratch Ballard:

“This game is about guys who are playing the best, and other guys are playing better than him (Ballard).”

Ballard took the decision in stride, chalking it up to a good team having less leeway to cope with the defenceman’s current struggles, saying:

“If I have to put my personal pride aside, that’s OK… It’s up to me to play better. With a strong core you have to earn time.  I’ve played games (before Van) where I should have been a scratch, but you don’t have that luxury on a good team.”

It’s hard to fathom that Ballard will sit for much more than a game, maybe two – based solely on his price tag.  In eight games this season, Ballard has no points, 7 PIM, and is a -3.  In the three previous seasons, Ballard had not missed a game, but missed 5 already this season due to injury.