Canucks’ Thatcher Demko suffers concussion, DiPietro recalled

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

VANCOUVER — Micheal Ferland doesn’t have a concussion, but goalie Thatcher Demko does.

It was a bad news morning for the Vancouver Canucks, who play the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night without any help coming from the medical department.

Checking centre Brandon Sutter, who has been "day-to-day" for a while, will also miss his 13th straight game due to a lower-body injury.

Canucks coach Travis Green provided the bleak medical update after his team’s morning skate at Rogers Arena.

Demko "suffered a concussion in practice yesterday, so he’s in protocol," Green told reporters. "And Mikey’s on his way up."

Mikey is minor-league goalie Mike DiPietro, who faces a long travel day to get to the Canucks from the Utica Comets. Green was unspecific about when starting goalie Jacob Markstrom’s new backup would arrive before the 7 p.m. PT faceoff.

"Today," Green said.

The coach said he learned of Demko’s condition on Wednesday night. The 24-year-old goalie, who has started 12 of the Canucks’ 31 games this season, was injured during an optional practice that morning.

It’s unclear whether the goalie was hurt in a collision with teammate Loui Eriksson or from a shot to his mask.

What makes the injury especially concerning is that Demko missed the first two months of last season when he was hit in the mask by former teammate Brendan Leipsic’s shot during a morning skate.

DiPietro’s one NHL start last season was a disaster, a 7-2 home loss on Feb. 11 against the San Jose Sharks when Demko was out with a knee injury and Markstrom needed a rest. For now, Markstrom at least is fresh after missing two stints this season while home in Sweden to deal with the terminal illness of his father.

Between his concussion and sprained knee, Demko played only 25 NHL and AHL games last year.

Even the news about Ferland, who survived only four periods upon his return from a concussion that kept him out five weeks, was disconcerting.

Green reiterated, as general manager Jim Benning said Wednesday, that Ferland is not in concussion "protocol." But the symptoms the rugged winger is experiencing may be concussion-related.

Canucks winger Sven Baertschi missed two months due to a concussion last fall, returned for 12 games, then mysteriously left the lineup again and was out another seven weeks. Baertschi, who is now in Utica, told Sportsnet at training camp in September that he was dealing with anxiety that he attributed to his earlier concussion.

"He’s seeing specialists," Green said of Ferland. "Health is, for us, the No. 1 priority for Ferly. He’s not in the (concussion) protocol. He’s got some symptoms that he doesn’t feel perfect, and he’s still seeing some specialists to find out exactly what’s going on. It’s symptoms, but he hasn’t suffered a concussion."

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Sutter, meanwhile, remains close to playing but is experiencing slight variations in skating strength from day to day. After having last season end with sports hernia surgery, Sutter’s second in four years in Vancouver, the veteran centre strained his "lower body" while skating untouched on a forecheck on Nov. 12 against Nashville.

His injury, combined with the concurrent absence of fourth-line centre Jay Beagle, who returned to the lineup last weekend, has put a daunting workload on two-way centre Bo Horvat. Horvat averaged 23:13 of ice time in the 11 games from Sutter’s injury until Beagle’s return. He has not scored a goal at home this season.

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