Thatcher Demko

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Markstrom’s absence shows his importance to Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have a massive game on Wednesday night when they host the Arizona Coyotes.

Not only are they looking to snap a three-game losing streak and break out of a funk that has seen them lose nine out of their past 13, but they are just two points ahead of the Coyotes in the Western Conference playoff race. They have quickly gone from first place in the Pacific Division, to bubble team just trying to get in the playoffs. Wednesday is your classic four-point game that could either see the Canucks take a major step toward distancing themselves from the Coyotes in the standings, or leave the door wide open for the Coyotes to eventually catch them and move ahead of them.

Probably the biggest issue facing the Canucks at the moment is the injury situation.

Brock Boeser, one of their top overall players, remains out of the lineup, while two of their top defensemen — rookie of the year candidate Quinn Hughes and veteran Tyler Myers — are both game-time decisions for Wednesday.

The biggest injury, though, is the one that has currently sidelined starting goalie Jacob Markstrom.

He is been out of the lineup for more than a week now (and is still at least one week away from returning, and maybe more), a stretch that has seen the Canucks go 0-3-0 and surrender 14 totals goals. Since the start of February the Canucks are just 1-4-1 in the six games Markstrom has not started, while their two backups (Thatcher Demko and Louis Domingue) have a combined .882 save percentage during that stretch.

That is a problem.

Their struggles without him are a testament to how much of an impact Markstrom has made for the Canucks this season when healthy.

For as much progress as they have made this season, and for as good as Hughes has been on their back-end, this still is not a particularly strong team defensively. Entering play on Wednesday, the Canucks rank among the bottom-six teams in the NHL in several defensive metrics, including total shot attempts against per 60 minutes, shots on goal against, scoring chances against, and expected goals against. That is a problem. The one thing that has consistently bailed them out this season and helped mask those flaws has been the play of Markstrom in net. For the season, he sits among the top-eight goalies in both overall save percentage and even-strength save percentage.

Given the number of shots and chances the Canucks give up on a nightly basis, Markstrom is easily one of the two or three most impactful players on the entire roster right up there with Hughes and Elias Pettersson. And given the position he plays and how dependent the Canucks’ defense is on his play, there is an argument to be made he is the most impactful player on the team.

This has been a huge season for Markstrom, not only for what it’s meant for the team, but also for what it’s meant for him personally. He is eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season, and he has made a pretty convincing case that he has a ton of value to the Canucks.

They have seen it when he is in the lineup with the way he’s helped get them back into a playoff position. And they are seeing it now when he’s not there to help stabilize their defense.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom to miss at least 2 weeks

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Some tough news for the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night as general manager Jim Benning issue an update on the status of starting goalie Jakob Markstrom.

Benning announced that Markstrom underwent a “minor lower-body procedure” on Wednesday and that his return to play status will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The Canucks are already playing without one of their top wingers, Brock Boeser, due to injury. They are currently in a fight for the top spot in the Pacific Division. Their next game is in Ottawa on Thursday night as they continue their current four-game road trip. They play seven games over the next two weeks and will rely on Thatcher Demko and the recently acquired Louis Domingue to take over the goaltending duties.

It is definitely not an ideal situation for the Canucks. Markstrom may not get a ton of attention league wide, but he has solidified the Canucks’ goaltending position the past couple of years and has been outstanding this season with a .918 save percentage in 43 games.

He is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and has certainly played his way to a significant raise on his next contract.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Injury roundup: Yamamoto out for Oilers; Kuemper returns for Coyotes

NHL Injury
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Checking in on some injury news around the NHL.

Another injury for Oilers

On Monday the Edmonton Oilers made two pretty significant trades to improve their forward lineup with the additions of Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis.

Those additions are taking on even more importance on Tuesday because of yet another injury to an already battered lineup.

The Oilers announced on Tuesday that promising young forward Kailer Yamamoto is going to be sidelined on a week-to-week basis due to an ankle injury. The Oilers are already playing without James Neal, Oscar Klefbom, and Kris Russell due to injuries. Connor McDavid had also missed six games before returning to the lineup on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

Yamamoto, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, has taken a huge step this season in his development and is currently averaging a point per game (20 points in 20 games) this season.

Kuemper back for Coyotes

Some significant news for the Coyotes in their playoff push on Tuesday as starting goalie Darcy Kuemper returns to the lineup when the team hosts the Florida Panthers.

Kuemper, who currently owns the NHL’s highest save percentage this season (.929) among qualified goalies, has not played since Dec. 19.

The Coyotes enter the game clinging to a playoff spot following a month-long slump through most of January and February. They have, however, won three of their past five games and have two in a row at home against the Panthers and Sabres and are now getting their best goalie back for the stretch run. As long as Antti Raanta stays healthy they have one of the best goaltending duos in the NHL right now.

Markstrom’s injury will be tough for Canucks

Jacob Markstrom has been the underrated star of the Canucks’ turnaround this season and, very quietly, one of the league’s best goalies.

Now he is going to be sidelined for a yet-to-be-determined period of time, leaving the Canucks’ goal crease in the hands of Thatcher Demko and trade deadline acquisition Louis Domingue. The Canucks have lost six of their past nine games and a brutal schedule ahead of them that includes a four-game road trip that starts tonight in Montreal.

If Markstrom’s injury turns out to be significant, that might be the difference between a playoff spot and an early summer.

Clutterbuck back with Islanders

Cal Clutterbuck was back on the ice with the Islanders on Tuesday, but he is not yet ready to return to game action for their game against New York Rangers tonight.

He has been sidelined since December due to an ugly cut he suffered when his wrist was hit by the skate blade of Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron.

He recently played two games for Bridgeport in the American Hockey League.

Tarasenko getting closer

The St. Louis Blues did not add another winger before the trade deadline on Monday, but that does not mean some extra help is not on the horizon.

All-Star winger Vladimir Tarasenko is back skating with the team and inching closer to a potential return to the lineup, according to general manager Doug Armstrong.

Armstrong said on Tuesday that Tarasenko will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip, not because he is going to play, but to further assimilate himself with the team. When they return from that trip Armstrong said they will be able to sit with Tarasenko and the team doctors to figure out a return date for him. That update comes via The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Post-trade deadline reactions to noteworthy deals

Every week I write an article where I recommend players I think are worth adding or dropping in fantasy leagues, but because of the recently passed NHL trade deadline, I’m going to do something different this week. Instead, I’ll be going over some of the most noteworthy players who were dealt at the deadline who I think will be positively or negatively impacted by the trades they were involved in.

I’ll evaluate noteworthy players from the most recent trades first and work my way backwards.

NHL Trade Deadline tracker
PHT Trade Deadline Live Blog

Louis Domingue: Devils to Canucks – Domingue has left plenty to be desired this season with a 3.79 GAA and .882 save percentage in 16 games. Those numbers are terrible under any circumstances, but it obviously didn’t help that the Devils squad in front of him has been bad. He was put on waivers on Feb. 20th and sent to the minors upon clearing, but Vancouver ended up acquiring him because Jacob Markstrom is expected to miss the next three-to-four weeks due to a lower-body injury. Thatcher Demko is the de facto starter during Markstrom’s absence, but Demko isn’t having a great season, so Domingue should get an opportunity to start in some games with Vancouver. Domingue doesn’t have much fantasy value, but this trade certainly helped him.

Barclay Goodrow: Sharks to Lightning – Goodrow was the most surprising player to fetch a first-round pick. He has eight goals, 24 points, and 80 penalty minutes in 62 games this season while averaging a career-high 16:23 minutes. I don’t see him playing as big of a role with the Lightning as he did with San Jose, which is probably going to hurt his already limited offensive production. He’s currently minus-eight though and the move to San Jose should help him there. Overall, I see this trade as a wash or a slight negative for Goodrow from a fantasy perspective.

Robin Lehner: Blackhawks to Golden Knights – Lehner has a 16-10-5 record, 3.01 GAA, and .918 save percentage in 33 contests this season, but that’s with a pretty bad team in front of him. The move to Vegas should be a significant boost for him – when he plays. Which begs the question: How often will he play in Vegas? Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t having a particularly good season so there’s a good opportunity here for Lehner to grab the starting gig and run with it. If you’re hurting for goaltending help, then Lehner isn’t a bad one to take a chance on. He’s far from a safe bet to start regularly, but there is a chance of him having a really strong finish to the campaign thanks to this trade.

Andreas Athanasiou: Red Wings to Oilers – Athanasiou is having a rough season with 10 goals and 24 points in 46 games, but the move to Edmonton could be a huge boost for him. The speedy winger could be a great fit for Connor McDavid and if that proves to be the case, then he’ll do much better offensively. At the very least his plus/minus, which sits at a hideous minus-45, should be far better in Edmonton. Athanasiou is among those who benefited the most from the trade deadline and I’d take a chance on picking him up if he’s available in your league.

Patrick Marleau: Sharks to Pittsburgh Penguins – Marleau doesn’t have much fantasy value to begin with at this point, but this trade doesn’t do him any favors in that regard. He has 10 goals and 20 points in 58 games while averaging 15:36 minutes. With Pittsburgh he’s likely going to play a reduced role as part of a crowded bottom-six. It wouldn’t be surprising if Marleau ends up playing primarily on the fourth line.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau: Senators to Islanders – I’m fairly pessimistic when it comes to Pageau. He was probably playing over his head to begin with – as evidenced by his career-high 17.8 shooting percentage – and this trade stacks the odds against him further. Keep in mind with Ottawa he was leaned on heavily, averaging 19:18 minutes per game, but he won’t get that level of responsibility with the Islanders. On the plus side, he has far more to work with in New York than he did with Ottawa, but I still think this trade will result in him taking a moderate hit from a fantasy perspective.

Ilya Kovalchuk: Canadiens to Capitals – This one is perhaps the biggest roll of the dice just because of how inconsistent Kovalchuk has been. He had an incredible six goals and 12 points in his first 15 games with Montreal and followed it up with just an assist in his next seven contests. He was similarly inconsistent with the Kings before that. The move to the Capitals will put Kovalchuk on a contender and unite him with Alex Ovechkin, which should be a boost to his spirits, but Kovalchuk will be asked to be more of a role player with the Capitals than he was with Montreal, which gave him an average of 18:54 minutes. I’d lean towards saying that this trade will diminish Kovalchuk’s fantasy value, but I certainly think his situation will be worth monitoring over the next couple games.

Ondrej Kase: Ducks to Bruins – I think there’s potential here for Kase to do better with Boston than he did in Anaheim. Kase practiced alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk in his first practice with Boston, which is a significant upgrade over his recent Ducks linemates of Sam Steel and Max Jones. Kase had seven goals and 23 points in 49 games with the Ducks and he has the potential to finish the campaign on a high note after this trade.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

The Buzzer: Big milestone night for Patrick Marleau

Big night for Patrick Marleau the buzzer
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Three Stars

1. Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks

All due respect to J.T. Miller‘s two goals, but Demko powered the Canucks to their ninth home win in a row.

The Blues generated a significant 37-26 shots on goal advantage on Tuesday, yet could only beat Demko once. Demko’s save against Jaden Schwartz warrants consideration for highlight of the night.

It’s unclear if the 24-year-old will pan out as the Canucks goalie of the future. Demko’s stats really have been all that impressive over the past couple seasons. Then again, as his creasemate Jacob Markstrom shows, sometimes goalies mature at unpredictable rates.

Either way, Demko looked legit on Tuesday.

2. Marcus Hogberg, Ottawa Senators

Placing Hogberg’s night ranks as challenge.

On one hand, Hogberg’s Senators lost to the Devils in a shootout. Hogberg also allowed three goals (not counting the shootout), which seems like a lot when you try to split hairs regarding best players of the night.

But Hogberg managed 50 saves against New Jersey. NHL PR notes that Hogberg established a Senators record for saves by a rookie goalie in a regular season game. That’s impressive, as was this save of the night contender.

3. Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks) enjoys a big night

Marleau deserves his own section, as he qualifies as the third star, provided one of the highlights of the night, and earned his own mini-factoids collection.

Marleau scored two goals on Tuesday. While his first one was the more symmetrical milestone (his 1,100 point with the Sharks), the second one was prettier.

The pass was brilliant (and lucky). The call was great. Marleau burned the Ducks defense for that goal. That also marked his 109th career game-winner.

There was a lot to like, and even without further context, Marleau reaching 10 goals at age 40 was already impressive. Especially since Marleau played his first game of 2019-20 on Oct. 10. Then add context and it’s a very pretty way to join rare company.

Marleau became just the fourth player in NHL history to score 10+ goals for at least 22 consecutive seasons. NHL PR shared the list: Gordie Howe (24), Mark Messier (22), Alex Delvecchio (22), and Marleau (22).

Just a big night overall by Marleau:

One more option for highlight of the night

Remove historical impact and Jamie Benn‘s two goals might stand taller than Marleau’s duo. Check out both of Benn’s impressive goals from the Stars’ OT win against Tampa Bay:

Factoids beyond Marleau having a big night

  • Marleau’s teammate Erik Karlsson generated the 600th point in his 730th regular-season game. NHL PR points out that Karlsson became the 11th defenseman to reach 600 points in 730 games or less.
  • Steven Stamkos reached 20 goals for the 11th season. Sportsnet Stats notes that Vincent Lecavalier owns the Lightning’s most seasons with 20+ at 12. While Stamkos looks poised to set a new franchise record, Nikita Kucherov would need to hustle, as his 22 this season “only” give him six such seasons.
  • The Capitals reached 73 standings points in their 50th game. That’s Washington’s second-best point total through 50 GP, with 2015-16 (78) standing at number one, according to NHL PR.
  • Capitals winger Jakub Vrana scored a goal and an assist to push his point streak to nine games. NHL PR notes that Vrana now holds the league’s third longest active streak.

Scores

WSH 4 – MTL 2
NJD 4 – OTT 3 (SO)
TOR 5 – NSH 2
DAL 3 – TBL 2 (OT)
VAN 3 – STL 1
SJS 4 – ANA 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.