Vancouver hockey fans are used to seeing Chris Tanev bounce back, like a speed bag after taking one of those hard hits, to make another stretch pass to a streaking teammate up-ice.

The Canucks defenceman has been working on strategies the last couple of seasons to limit his time spent in harm’s way, but the seeming inevitable happened last Saturday against the visiting Flames when big winger Tim Jackman stapled Tanev against the end boards in the first period.

Tanev, 23, came up heavily favouring his right leg and made his way gingerly to the bench, and then the dressing room. It didn’t look good, but Tanev returned to finish the game.

As it turns out, it wasn’t good, and the Canucks said on Tuesday that Tanev — along with winger Chris Higgins — will miss the next three weeks until the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if the injury — believed to be Tanev’s ankle — keeps him out beyond the start of the playoffs on April 30, as head coach Alain Vigneault hinted.

It’s a testament to how far the young Toronto native has come — he’s still in his first season as a regular NHL player — that his absence will be felt so keenly. Not only is Tanev one of the Canucks’ most dependable D-men, he’s also just one of the team’s two right-handers, along with Kevin Bieksa.

Not addressing that issue at the trade deadline may come back to haunt Canucks GM Mike Gillis, when a right-handed depth defenceman such as Ryan O’Byrne went from the Avalanche to the Maple Leafs for a fourth-rounder.

But Tanev’s greatest asset may be that he has such a stabilizing effect on the third pairing when he plays there. Keith Ballard will miss him. So will Andrew Alberts and Cam Barker.

This will put even more onus on Ballard to show — as he did Monday night in Tanev’s absence — that he can avoid being a liability as a lefty playing the right side. Or for left-shot Barker to fill in there when needed.

It also means that a steadily improving Jason Garrison needs to continue to get the job done as he has playing the right side with the rock-solid Dan Hamhuis.

Garrison, a left-shot, really only played the right side on the power play in Florida, so when he found himself there early on after joining the Canucks as a free agent last summer, it was a bit of a jolt.

“The first few games it was a really new experience to play a full game on the right side, but I’d say now it’s becoming natural for me,” said Garrison. “You see guys coming down a different side. It’s just a couple of things you just have to focus in on, but for the most part I’m liking it a lot.”