Canucks Receive Huge Lineup Boost After Injury Update

Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks

Getty Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are set to welcome back their starting goaltender, Thatcher Demko, as they play the final two games of the regular season and head into the NHL playoffs scheduled to start on April 20.

Canucks’ No. 1 goaltender Thatcher Demko will return to the net on Tuesday, April 16, for the matchup against the Calgary Flames, head coach Rick Tocchet confirmed on Monday.

“He’s healthy, he’s ready to go,” Tocchet told reporters on April 15. “He’s definitely going to play tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”

Demko suffered a knee injury facing the Winnipeg Jets on March 9 and he had yet to make his comeback, which has been in the works for a few weeks.

The Canucks medical staff, however, was never going to rush the netminder back and they planned for a return on April 16 in the game against the Calgary Flames. That’s exactly what is happening, so it can be said the plan worked to perfection just two games before the playoffs.

Thatcher Demko Is Having A Vezina Trophy-Caliber Season

Demko was initially set to miss between two and three weeks but entering play on Tuesday he has missed 14 games already. While Demko has been out, the Canucks have used backup Casey DeSmith on the net.

During his last 10 games, all of them with Demko injured, DeSmith has posted up a .888 save percentage allowing 2.90 goals-against on average. Smith had a horrible start to the month of April, getting scored on 6 times in back-to-back games against the Golden Knights and the Kings.

Demko, on the other hand, was putting together a Vezina Trophy-caliber campaign before getting injured. Demko hit the shelves boasting a .917 SV% and a 2.47 GAA in 49 games played. Even though he’s been out for a month-plus, Demko is still 2nd in total Goals Saved Above Expected according to MoneyPuck‘s model.

Demko was asked about his expectations coming back from a reasonably long absence and whether or not he will feel the rust playing for the first time in more than a month.

“I’ve played close to 50 games this year, and that was a month ago,” Demko told reporters after practice on April 12. “It’s not like coming off the offseason where you haven’t played a game in 3–4 months and then trying to get it back.

“I feel pretty much right where I was when I went down, and I’m excited to get back in the net for some games.”

Canucks Haven’t Won the Pacific Division Yet

Tuesday’s game against Calgary is important for the Canucks because they have not quite yet won their division.

Vancouver has two games left in the regular season and leads the Edmonton Oilers by 3 points for the No. 1 seed in the Pacific Division. The Canucks finish the regular season at the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

Following Edmonton’s victory on Monday, things are quite tight in the division and nothing is set in stone with the two franchises still having two games left in their schedules.

“Still want to get some things accomplished here prep-wise and obviously do my best to be ready for Game 1,” Demko told reporters after practice on April 15. “There are certain things you can’t do in practice, so hopefully get some game action here.”

The Canucks only need one point in their final two games to clinch the Pacific division and by the time the Oilers play again (on Wednesday) they might already know they don’t stand a chance to clinch the Pacific’s No. 1 seed.

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