June 21st, 2024

Vancouver Canucks still taking Demko’s knee injury ‘day-by-day’: coach

By Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press on April 11, 2024.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) covers the puck during the first period of an NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets, in Vancouver, Saturday, March 9, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko says he “feels fine” as he works his way back from a knee injury.

Getting back onto the ice has taken a whole team of coaching, medical and training staff, Demko told reporters after practice on Thursday.

“I appreciate the staff that’s been around me kind of matching my focus level and my determination to get back,” he said. “Obviously it takes a village.”

But when, exactly, Demko will see game action remains unclear.

The 28-year-old netminder said he’s long been targeting next Tuesday’s home game against the Calgary Flames for a return, but head coach Rick Tocchet said Thursday that Demko is “ahead of schedule.”

Asked whether Demko could be in net Saturday when the Canucks (48-22-9) take on the Oilers in Edmonton, Tocchet said the team is taking the situation is “day-by-day.”

“At this point, I honestly don’t know,” the coach said.

Demko has been a vital part of Vancouver’s success this season. He boasts a 34-13-2 record with a .917 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average and has recorded five shutouts.

The two-time all-star was hurt during Vancouver’s 5-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets on March 9 and has missed 13 games.

Casey DeSmith and Arturs Silovs have been in the crease during Demko’s absence, backstopping the Canucks to a 6-5-2 record across the stretch.

Vancouver remains atop the Pacific Division standings, four points up on the Oilers, and was the first Canadian team to clinch a playoff spot.

“We’re in a great spot right now and I feel very fortunate to be in the position I’m in right now,” Demko said. “I’m excited to get back and see what games I can play.”

The Canucks have three regular-season games left, starting with the trip to Edmonton. They’ll close out the schedule with a visit to the Jets on April 18.

Demko said he feels like he’ll have enough time to ramp up for the post-season whether he plays against the Oilers or not.

“I’ve played close to 50 games this year and that was a month ago. It’s not like coming off the off-season where you haven’t played a game in three or four months and then trying to get back,” he said. “I feel great, I feel pretty much right where I was when I went down.”

Getting the star goalie back will be a boost heading into the playoffs, Tocchet said.

“He’s your rock, right? So when he does come back, obviously it instils confidence,” he said. “It’s no different when your really good hockey players are out.”

Many of the Canucks’ star players – including Demko – have yet to experience a true playoff run.

The team last played post-season hockey in the Edmonton bubble during the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season. Vancouver last hosted a playoff game in 2015 when the Canucks were ousted by the Flames in the first round.

Getting back to the playoffs has been an expectation for the Canucks for the last few years, Demko said.

“I think us making the playoffs, that’s what we should be doing every year.” he said. “There’s a lot of weight to perform in the playoffs. I think we’re all excited for that opportunity, finally, to get in there and see what we can do.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2024.

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