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The timing for Jacob Markstrom and the Vancouver Canucks couldn’t be worse as the veteran goaltender may be dealing with a knee problem.
The Canucks’ star missed practice on Monday in Montreal and the team initially reported his absence was simply a “maintenance day.” But general manager Jim Benning later confirmed during a press conference in Vancouver that Markstrom was absent after an MRI in Montreal revealed concerns for a “lower-body injury.”
Markstrom, who is returning to Vancouver and will be examined by the Canucks’ medical staff, is expected to miss three to four weeks.
“We don’t know for sure how long it will be,” he said. Benning indicated the injury happened on Saturday night against the Bruins, but that no particular play appears to be the direct cause of the injury.
To fill in in his absence, Benning made a trade with the New Jersey Devils, sending minor league goalie Zane MacIntyre east for Louis Domingue. The veteran netminder has appeared in 16 games for the Devils this season. He’s also appeared in seven games for their AHL affiliate.
“We were talking on the Domingue thing all morning,” Benning said. “Louis has experience in the league and he’s played well.”
He played 38 games as Andrei Vasilevskiy’s backup the previous two seasons in Tampa Bay. He also played for the Arizona Coyotes and for the most part has put up league-average numbers, though at the moment his career save percentage is just .904.
Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark came up with a list of options for Benning to consider acquiring. Domingue was near the top of the list, he said.
“We just felt like he is a player with experience that can come in and help support Thatcher and he can play games for us and be competitive if we need him,” Benning said.
With just over a month to go until the playoffs, this injury couldn’t come at a worse time for the Canucks. Markstrom has been getting not just chatter about the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie but also as a possible Hart Trophy candidate.
Benning remained philosophical about the impact of the injury to such a key player, coming on the heels of Brock Boeser’s bruised rib cartilage.
“Other teams have top guys that are out too; that’s just part of the game, it’s part of playing this time of year. So, you know, we’re confident in the depth that we have in different positions to replace players. And … this will be a great opportunity for Thatcher.”
He also said he didn’t utter any colourful words when the news was confirmed that Markstrom would be out for a few weeks.
“You wake up every day and there’s something that you’re going to have to try to figure out. And when it happened the other night, we were hoping that it wasn’t going to be as bad maybe as it’s going to turn out to be. We’ll get an exact timeline on Wednesday, but we knew it was there and we tried to do the best we can to cover ourselves, and that’s just what we did. That’s part of being in this business.”
Demko, who has a .905 save percentage in comparison to Markstrom’s .918, will now carry the bulk of the load.
Robin Lehner, who has had a strong season with the Chicago Blackhawks, was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at nearly the same time as Domingue was secured by the Canucks, but does not seem to have been an option.
“We really weren’t in on the Lehner thing, no,” Benning said.
ICE CHIPS — Brock Boeser may yet return before the end of the season. “If we would have known for sure that he was out for the year we would have put him into LTI and had his money to use to add more players. Now we think that there’s a chance he’s going to be back before the end of the year, so we had to save that space to make sure that we had room when he’s healthy to bring him back,” Benning said.
• The GM also said that while there had been calls on Troy Stecher, he never really considered trading him away.
• “We talked about that,” he said about the idea of team toughness, one reason they’d been rumoured to be considering Wayne Simmonds, but in the end he didn’t feel like paying the prices that were being asked for players of that ilk.
• Sven Baertschi remains a Utica Comet. “We talked to some teams about Sven,” Benning said. Several teams then made different moves, nixing their interest. “I think maybe at the draft there might be a chance.”
• Richard Bachman, who started the year in Utica but is currently on loan in the Swedish Hockey League, could be called back to Utica if need be, Benning said.
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