As if the Vancouver Canucks hadn’t been hit with hard enough luck this season, a case of bad timing has now struck the team. According to multiple sources, including The Province’s Ben Kuzma, starting goaltender Thatcher Demko was injured at morning skate on Monday. The Canucks had been well-prepared all season for the absence of one of their NHL goalies, with top prospect Michael DiPietro waiting in the wings on the practice squad. However, with DiPietro having not played in a game all season, the team finally decided to assign him to the AHL’s Utica Coments – on Sunday, less than 24 hours before Demko’s injury. Now, with no timetable for Demko’s return and DiPietro over the border and at least seven days from being eligible to re-join the roster, the Canucks enter a stretch of four games in six nights (repeated in each of the next three weeks) with backup Braden Holtby and untested recall Arturs Silovs in net. Eight points back of the Montreal Canadiens for a playoff spot in the North Division, but with five games in hand, can the Canucks’ new tandem keep them in the race?
Fortunately, Holtby appears to shaken off a difficult start to his Vancouver career and has been terrific of late. In three starts since the Canucks returned from their COVID layoff, Holtby is 3-0-0 with seven goals allowed on 107 shots for a save percentage of .935. The veteran netminder knows how to handle pressure and the hope is that he can shoulder the load with Demko sidelined and help lead the Canucks to some much-needed points as they make up their missed games.
However, with four back-to-backs scheduled before the end of the season, including Wednesday and Thursday of this week, Silovs will likely have to play at some point before Demko can return or DiPietro can be recalled. A 2019 sixth-round pick, Silovs has played just one pro game in North America, suiting up for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose for one game in February. The Latvian keeper has played pro back home, including on loan earlier this season, and spent last season in the OHL. At no point in his career has Silovs produced eye-popping numbers, but with good size and a variety of experience he is still considered a good prospect. Vancouver may need him to be more than that though and adjusting to the NHL could prove difficult for the 20-year-old.
With that said, Kuzma writes that the team is still unsure of the extent of Demko’s injury and there is still a chance that he may only be out day-to-day. If that isn’t the case, and Demko is out longer than a week, they could also decide that is is worth it to recall DiPietro from Utica. Either way, assistance should be on the way at some point. In the meantime though, every point is crucial and Holtby and Silovs will have a lot of pressure facing them during this busy stretch.