VANCOUVER – It’s not the goals and assists that tell you how important Bo Horvat is to the Vancouver Canucks. It’s the time on ice.
The Canucks centre leads the National Hockey League team’s forwards with 18:36 of nightly ice time. With second-line centre Brandon Sutter injured, Horvat’s ice time is more than two minutes ahead of the next busiest forward, Sven Baertschi (16:21).
Horvat is fourth in average power-play time at 2:47, just marginally behind rookie Brock Boeser and the Sedin brothers, Daniel and Henrik, and fifth in penalty-kill time with an average of 1:51. But the top two penalty-killing forwards are Sutter and Derek Dorsett, who just retired.
And among the healthy players who have contributed to the Canucks’ 5-2-1 surge heading into Thursday’s home game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Horvat has taken twice as many faceoffs (593) this season as the next busiest centre, Henrik Sedin (292).
Oh, and for the record, Horvat’s 10 goals and 10 assists in 28 games puts him second in Canucks scoring.
All of this is what the team will be missing for as many as six weeks after coach Travis Green confirmed Thursday morning that Horvat suffered a fractured foot late in Tuesday’s 3-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“He’s seeing a specialist today,” Green said. “We don’t know a timeline for sure yet, but it’s going to be multiple weeks – probably up to six weeks.
“I don’t think we’re going to just replace Bo Horvat. But teams deal with injuries and we’re going to have to deal with it. It’s going to be a challenge. Burmy (Alex Burmistrov) will go in tonight and Burmy’s a good player. He’s been waiting for a chance. I thought he played well at the start of the year. I thought he dipped. I talked to him the other day: ‘Just hang in there, you’re going to get another opportunity.’ I didn’t expect it to happen this way.”
Burmistrov may be a good player, but he hasn’t been good enough to play, even with Sutter out of the lineup with an upper-body injury sustained Nov. 24 when he tried to jump a check along the boards by New Jersey Devils defenceman John Moore.
Sutter is believed to be at least a week away, but the Canucks were saying the same thing last week. Burmistrov has been a healthy scratch in nine of the last 11 games. So Burmistrov isn’t replacing Horvat; more likely he’ll replace Sam Gagner or Markus Granlund as those guys get more ice time.
“Anaheim has been playing without their top two centres, it seems, for the whole year,” Gagner said, referring to injured Ducks’ Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf. “It’s just something that comes with the game.
“With Bo out, we’re going to need a lot of different guys to step up and kind of fill that void. (But) it’s one that, I think, with what Bo brings to the game, it’s unfillable. But different guys have to step up and make sure they’re doing their job to the best of their ability to help us get wins.”
The best hope the Canucks have to keep winning until Sutter, at least, gets back is the Sedins and Loui Eriksson have been easily the Canucks’ most productive line the last three weeks. In their last eight games, the Swedes have combined for eight goals and 25 points. Henrik has averaged just 14:22 of ice time this season under Green, Daniel 14:09.
“It’s going to be tough, especially now that we have Sutter and (Horvat) out for a little bit,” Henrik said. “It’s not going to change our mindset; we’re going to go out and play the minutes we get. Whether that’s 11 or 15 or 18, that’s up to (Green).”
Asked to explain their recent spike in offensive production, Sedin said: “I think we’ve gotten more ice time. That’s No. 1.”
They should get even more ice time now.
For depth and to fill payroll space in order to maximize long-term-injured benefits on their salary cap, the Canucks recalled centre Michael Chaput and goalie Thatcher Demko from the Utica Comets.