Injured netminder has begun skating again, could start practising with team this week
Just over a week ago, Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau struck a hopeful, but realistic, tone when asked about the health of his No. 1 goaltender.
Thatcher Demko, he said a couple days after Christmas, was unlikely to play before the end of January.
But you never say never, he added.
A mid-January return was unlikely, he said at the time, and with the Canucks hitting a break in the last week of the month, the runway for a return was very short, he said.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Winnipeg Jets
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Saturday, though, the news was much more positive. Demko, who has been out since suffering a lower body injury Dec. 3, will travel with his teammates on their upcoming road trip, Sportsnet 650’s Brendan Batchelor reported.
The Canucks will play five games in seven days, beginning Sunday in Winnipeg. They have practice days scheduled for Monday in Pittsburgh, Wednesday in Tampa and Friday in Coral Springs, Fla, though with their heavy schedule this week, it’s likely at least one of those skates will be called off.
Demko has been working on ice this week, but has yet to practice with the team.
So whether he plays on this road trip is uncertain the fact he is travelling is a good sign.
Demko has a 3-10-0-2 record in 15 starts for the Canucks this season, and a 3.93 goals against average.
Spencer Martin has taken over the starting role, posting an 11-7-0-1 record in 21 games with a 3.63 goals against average. Collin Delia was called up from Abbotsford to be the No. 2 netminder during Demko’s absence and has a 3-1 record with a 2.42 goals against average in four games.
Still no Pearson
On the other hand, Boudreau had been hopeful that Tanner Pearson would be on the trip.
Pearson had hand surgery in early November and was originally expected back by Christmas at the latest. But his hand apparently didn’t heal as hoped and he needed a second procedure in early December.
Pearson’s been skating all the while, but obviously his hand still hasn’t recovered to the point where he can play.
Boudreau had said last week he was hopeful Pearson, who has one goal and four assists in 14 games this season, would be on this road trip.
During Saturday’s practice at Rogers Arena before the team departed for Winnipeg, Boudreau pressed home the importance of being smarter with dump-ins.
The veteran coach stopped his team during the middle of a drill that focused on forechecking to make his point.
Too often in the Canucks’ game in Winnipeg last week, he said, they’d put the puck in spots where Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck could retrieve it.
He said the Canucks’ analytics staff recorded 11 puck touches by Hellebuyck off dump-ins.
McDonough scores at Fenway
Canucks prospect Aidan McDonough scored a thrilling goal outdoors on Saturday, as his Northeastern University team took on the University of Connecticut in a Hockey East clash at Fenway Park in Boston.
McDonough ripped a wrist shot home off the rush, then swung his stick like a baseball bat in celebration.
It’s the 13th goal in 20 games for the big winger, who is set to graduate next spring. The Canucks are hopeful of signing him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.
In attendance at Fenway on Saturday was Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin.
The Canucks made their practice Saturday at Rogers Arena open to their season-ticket holders.
Before practice, they hosted a brief question-and-answer. Initially this was advertised as being with general manager Patrik Allvin, but with Allvin away on a scouting trip, vice-president Stan Smyl was sent out instead.
President Jim Rutherford would have been another option, but apparently wasn’t available.
Hassan Ahmed was one of the fans in attendance. He asked Smyl about how involved ownership is in management’s decisions. The longtime Canucks executive said ownership is less involved than they were when they first bought the team nearly two decades ago.
Ahmed said there were many kids in attendance and they really enjoyed the practice part, but he and others were disappointed by the Q-and-A, even if they are big fans of Smyl.
“It didn’t really inspire any more confidence in me, I was on the fence about keeping my tickets already but it sounds like more of the same. I appreciate being able to ask the question but until I see real change on the ice it’s hard to get behind anything especially since the ‘plan’ is so vague already,” he said.
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