LOS ANGELES – Only the Vancouver Canucks could turn seven into an unlucky number.
The National Hockey League franchise confirmed Thursday that defenceman Chris Tanev and winger Jake Virtanen suffered injuries in the Canucks’ 1-0 loss the previous night in Anaheim, bringing to seven the the number of players who have left the lineup since Vancouver finally, briefly, became fully healthy just two weeks ago.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Canuck general manager Jim Benning told Sportsnet after coach Travis Green announced that neither Tanev nor Virtanen would be available Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings. “Thirteen days ago we were healthy. Since then, we’ve had seven injuries. It’s unbelievable.”
Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf lost his balance and fell on Tanev’s ankle behind the play in the third period on Wednesday. Two periods earlier, Getzlaf blindsided Virtanen in an open-ice “collision” a short time after the Canucks winger had knocked Corey Perry off the puck behind the Vancouver net.
Getzlaf was assessed a minor penalty for interference and Virtanen eventually returned and finished the game. But he suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury – Green said it is not a concussion – and is out day-to-day. Tanev was sent home to Vancouver for further examination and will be out at least a week.
After moving back into a wildcard playoff spot two weeks ago in a season that has been as engaging on the West Coast as it was unexpected everywhere, the Canucks have lost in quick succession winger Sven Baertschi (post-concussion syndrome), backup goalie Thatcher Demko (knee), top defenceman Alexander Edler (concussion), checking centre Brandon Sutter (groin/abdomen), starting goalie Jacob Markstrom (tightness in his lower body) and now Tanev and Virtanen.
The player losses appear to have reached a critical mass, as the Canucks are 1-4-1 since they came out of the All-Star Break fully healthy and beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 in Denver on Feb. 2.
As the Canucks face the Kings, they are only two points out of a playoff spot – but with fewer games remaining than all their rivals – and just six points ahead of Los Angeles for last place in the Western Conference.
“I’ve talked about it before; there’s no excuses,” Green said. “Other guys step up, other guys get opportunity. When you’ve got five (skaters) out of your lineup, obviously it’s not an ideal situation. Certain parts of the year you have to go through it and hopefully your team raises their game.
“You get deep into the season. … these guys want to play. There’s no one sitting there feeling sorry for themselves. And the guys going into the lineup are excited.”
Asked if he has experienced — in the NHL — seven injuries in two weeks, Green referenced November when Vancouver was without as many as six regulars. That was also when the Canucks began a 1-10-2 crash that imperiled their season.
Benning said the volume of injuries, and their potential impact on the Canucks’ unlikely playoff push, won’t change his long-term plans for building the team as the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline approaches. He reiterated that he’ll look at “hockey trades” but won’t sell off assets for futures.
Extra winger Nikolay Goldobin and minor-league defence callup Guillaume Brisbois replace Virtanen and Tanev against the Kings.
Unless Thursday’s MRI reveals further damage, Virtanen could play in the Canucks’ road trip finale Saturday in San Jose. The Canucks hope Edler, Tanev and Demko might all return before the end of February. Sutter and Baertschi’s absences are more indefinite.
Vancouver is expected to recall another defenceman from the Utica Comets to provide lineup depth.
After this road trip, 14 of the Canucks’ next 20 games are at Rogers Arena.