Pettersson hurt, Demko recalled though Canucks lose Mike McKenna on waivers
Thursday January 3 - Montreal Canadiens 2 - Vancouver Canucks 0
Carey Price returned to action in top form but an injury to Elias Pettersson headlined the Vancouver Canucks' 2-0 shutout loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.
Here are your highlights:
Price set the tone when he didn't bite on Pettersson's breakaway attempt, less than four minutes into the first period. The play was similar to the penalty-shot move that beat Pekka Rinne last month in Vancouver but this time there was no room, officially leading to a missed shot.
The Canucks managed just five shots in an opening period where the Habs played some committed defense, blocking 10 shots. Vancouver went to the dressing room down a goal after Jordie Benn got the Habs on the board with his third of the year.
We were less than six minutes into the second when the camera cut back to Pettersson, lying face down and motionless in the middle of the defensive zone.
An image like that makes it easy to assume the worst. The replay eventually showed that the Canucks' young star had gotten tangled up with Montreal rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi:
When the Habs beat Vancouver at Rogers Arena back in November, there was some fuss about Kotkaniemi perceived to be throwing shade at Pettersson, who scored a power-play goal in that game:
On Thursday, the two players had been engaged before the play that caused the injury. Pettersson was credited with a hit on Kotkaniemi behind the net, which freed up the puck to start the Canucks' rush the other way, and the two players continued to battle.
After the collision, Pettersson was eventually able to skate off under his own steam. He didn't return to action, but post-game sightings were promising.
After the game, Kotkaniemi was much more cautious with his words this time around. Still learning himself, the 18-year-old rookie is obviously tuning in to how quickly the flames can ignite in Canada's hockey markets.
After the game, Travis Green said that Pettersson would stay with the team and that he didn't think the injury was a long-term issue, but would probably keep him out against Toronto on Saturday.
A couple of other roster notes from Thursday: Nikolay Goldobin did remained scratched for a second-straight game, while Brandon Sutter played 19:14 in his return to the lineup—more minutes than expected due to Pettersson's absence. Sutter had three shot attempts—two on goal—and one hit, as well as going a solid 13-for-20 in the faceoff circle. Bo Horvat still took a ton of draws, going 15-for-28, while Jay Beagle was 8-for-13.
You probably don't want to hear this right now but for a kid, Kotkaniemi is solid in the circle. He was Montreal's best faceoff man on Thursday, going 9-for-14 on the night.
Michael Del Zotto also drew back into the Canucks' lineup on Thursday for the first time in nearly a month after 13 healthy scratches, while Derrick Pouliot was given the night off. MDZ has been watching from the sidelines for the Canucks' entire recent hot streak. He finished the night on Thursday as a minus-one in just 12:50 of ice time, with three hits, a block and four shot attempts.
Tim Schaller also played his second game after a string of eight scratches. He played 10:26 and got in a first-period scrap with Ben Harpur in Ottawa on Wednesday and had four hits in 7:50 of ice time in Montreal on Thursday. When the Canucks were searching for offense in the third period, he played just one 23-second shift.
Of course, Friday's other roster note is a big one:
Despite the Canucks' best-laid plans, Demko's recall hasn't quite gone smoothly. Veteran minor-leaguer Mike McKenna, who was acquired on Wednesday in the trade that saw Anders Nilsson moved to Ottawa, was claimed on waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, leaving the Utica Comets woefully short in net. Again.
With Nilsson gone, the Canucks have no choice but to bring up Demko, their only other goaltender with an NHL contract. That leaves only Ivan Kulbakov in Utica. He was signed for organizational depth at the beginning of the season and expected to play mostly in the ECHL but with Demko's early-season concussion and the season-ending Achilles tear suffered by Richard Bachman just before Christmas, Kulbakov has already appeared in 13 games for the Comets this season. He has a 5-6-2 record, .880 save percentage and 3.98 goals-against average.
Kulbakov has played just once since Bachman went down, giving up eight goals on 24 shots in 43:17 of action on December 28 against Syracuse in his worst outing of the year.
The Comets' weekend schedule has them playing a pair of afternoon games on Saturday and Sunday in Cleveland, so they'll need to bring somebody in on a PTO as soon as possible to serve as Kulbakov's backup.
Demko leaves Utica coming off a pair of wins, stopping 33 of 36 shots against Rochester on December 29 and 31 of 33 against Syracuse on Wednesday.
With their goaltending situation now in total flux, it'll be interesting to see what happens with the Comets the rest of the way. As Demko departs, they're in a playoff position: 18-16-2-1, tied with Cleveland for third in the North Division with 39 points, though the Monsters have four games in hand.
As for McKenna...
Worth noting ahead of Saturday's game: the Leafs aren't exactly in a good spot in net themselves.
Freddy Andersen and Garret Sparks are both currently sidelined. Hutchinson was in net for Toronto's 4-3 loss to Minnesota on Thursday.
With that, you're up to date for now on the NHL side. I'm off to the rink soon to watch Quinn and Jack and Tyler take on Russia in the early World Juniors semifinal at 1 p.m. PT, then plan to stick around for Toni Utunen and Finland vs. Switzerland at 5:00.