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THE MOJ: Canucks approaching life without Demko in good humour

Rick Tocchet and Casey DeSmith ready to hold the fort with starting goalie out week-to-week
Vancouver Canucks goalie Casey DeSmith meets with reporters after practice at Rogers Arena on Tuesday. DeSmith will get the bulk of the playing time for the next three to four weeks with Thatcher Demko sidelined. Vancouver Canucks photo

Rick Tocchet may have lost his starting goaltender in Thatcher Demko for three-to-four weeks with an apparent knee injury but the Canucks head coach certainly hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

During his media availability session after a morning practice at Rogers Arena on Tuesday, Tocchet was in an engaging mood when it came to the topic of goaltending in general.

When asked by this agent about goalie Casey DeSmith’s makeup and how it would impact his ability to transform from a back-up to the starter for the next few weeks, Tocchet’s answer had the media contingent chuckling.

“He’s well-liked. I’ve been in the league some 40 years or whatever, but when you like the goalie, you tend to block more shots for the guy. I don’t know why. I’ve had some goalies where I’m not a big fan of the guy. I’m not saying I kind of veered out of the way but when you like a goalie, you’ll really dive in (front of a shot),” said Tocchet drawing some laughs from the assembled media. “Those guys love Casey. So you’ll see a lot of guys willing to block shots – like they do for Demmer

Then a few minutes later when asked if the team would be a little bit more cognizant about the defensive side of the game with DeSmith in goal, Tocchet came up with some more material.

“Do I want to put him in a bad situation by turning the puck over and they get a three-on-one? I think those guys are conscious of that. Casey has done a lot for us. He doesn’t play a ton or all the time. He’s a great guy. I think that comes into play. Then the guy dumps it in because he likes him. I don’t know if that makes sense,” said Tocchet as the media chuckled.

“So if a guy doesn’t dump it in tomorrow and it’s a three-on-one you’re going to say he doesn’t like the guy.”

All kidding aside, losing a Vezina Trophy candidate in Demko is no joke but perhaps Tocchet’s mood gave us some perspective on how he’s feeling about Demko’s injury and the confidence that he has in DeSmith.

The official word from Tocchet on Demko’s injury is “lower-body, week-to-week” but Canucks Nation biggest fear – that Demko wouldn’t be ready for the playoffs – wasn’t even on the head coach’s radar.

“I’m not worried about that at all,” answered Tocchet, adding that the upcoming time off for Demko was actually a positive given his workload this season.

As for DeSmith, this isn’t the first time he’s been called upon to be the number one goalie and those previous experiences with the Pittsburgh Penguins give him full confidence moving forward.

“I’ve done this a couple of times in my career just filling in for injury and getting the net for a little while. I’ve always enjoyed the experience and had some good success in the past when I’ve had the net for a couple of weeks, so I’m looking forward to it. I have my job to do and I’m just a very small part of the big picture, so I try to worry about my little part and not the big picture,” DeSmith said.

With Demko out of the lineup, the Canucks have summoned Arturs Silovs from their AHL farm team in Abbotsford where the 22-year-old Latvian was enjoying a solid season posting a 2.74 GAA to go along with a .907 save percentage in 32 games.

“I remember last year when we called him up, the second and third game you could see the improvement in Silovs so I think it’s good that he gets a taste of it up here,” said Tocchet.

Despite Silov’s success this season, this is DeSmith’s time.

“As of now, we’re just going game-to-game. Casey’s definitely going to get the next two games and we’ll go from there. I think Casey deserves the chance to get the ball and take it,” explained Tocchet.


* DeSmith says the biggest adjustment he’s going to have to make in his new role is how he handles practice time. “Practices are a little different. I’ll get a couple of more sessions in with Clarkie (goaltending coach Ian Clark) than maybe I would normally. Then not staying on after (practice) as much, getting your work done before practice, going through practice, getting off and then taking care of the body a little bit,” said DeSmith.

* Tocchet believes a big key for the club’s improved play as of late has been the ability to take away the opposition’s speed through the neutral zone. The coaching staff made a video presentation to the players about four games ago and it seems to have resonated with the group.

* Defenseman Tyler Myers, who has missed the last four games with a lower-body injury, was a full participant in practice on Tuesday and is expected to be ready for either the game against Colorado tonight at Rogers Arena or when the Washington Capitals visit on Saturday.

* The organization announced a contract extension for Abbotsford general manager Ryan Johnson and that he has also been promoted to Assistant General Manager with Vancouver. The Canucks also announced contract extensions for Assistant General Managers Cammi Granato and Émilie Castonguay.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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