Canucks’ Demko nears return from knee injury with an eye on April 16th vs. Calgary Flames

Photo credit:© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
15 days ago
Thatcher Demko looks – and sounds – ready to go.
The star netminder wouldn’t rule out a return to the Vancouver Canucks line-up for Saturday’s highly anticipated Pacific Division showdown in Edmonton. However, in his first interview since hurting his knee on March 9th, Demko said repeatedly that throughout his recovery he has had his eye on next Tuesday’s home finale against Calgary.
“I’ve talked to the coaching staff and our goal pretty much since close to day one was to get back for the Calgary game,” Demko said after practice at Rogers Arena on Thursday. “Obviously, I do feel good right now. The timeline we’ve been trying to follow and pushing for is the Calgary game. I’ve got a lot to accomplish in this next week, so that’s going to be my main focus.”
After ramping up his on-ice involvement over the past week, Demko was a full participant in the team’s brisk 30 minute practice the day after a disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to Arizona. 
Demko has missed 13 games to this point with the club going 6-5-2 over that stretch and having been outscored 39-36 in the process. They still maintain top spot in the division, but their once healthy lead over Edmonton has been whittled away to just four points.
While the Canucks would love to have Demko ready for the Oiler game, the bigger goal is to make sure their difference maker between the pipes is fully ready for the opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s served as motivation for the 28-year-old San Diego native to put in the work in the gym over the past month.
“I appreciate the staff that has been around me kind of matching my focus level and my determination to get back,” Demko said of the Canucks training and medical crews. “Obviously it takes a village so we’re in a great spot right now. I feel very fortunate to be in the position I’m in right now. I’m excited to get back and see what games I can play.
We’ve been working around the clock. A lot of these days the last four weeks have been double-sessions coming in. I really appreciate the staff matching my determination to get back. Sometimes it sucks for them because they’ve got to take care of these guys (his Canucks teammates) too and I’m asking a lot of them. They’re willing to do it so it’s been good.”
Demko can draw on the fact that last season he returned from a serious hip injury and quickly and seamlessly regained his form in a hurry. Whether he gets into the final three games of the regular season or only manages to suit up for a pair, Demko believes he’ll be on top of his game whenever the post-season begins.
“Totally,” he stated confidently. “I’ve played close to fifty games this year (49) and that was just a month ago. It’s not like coming off the off-season where you haven’t played a game in three or four months and then trying to get it back. I feel great. I feel pretty much where I was when I went down and I’m excited to get back in the net for some games.”
Despite missing a month, Demko still remains fourth among all NHL netminders in wins on the season with 34. He boasts a 34-13-2 record with a 2.47 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and five shutouts. Prior to going down in the Winnipeg game, Demko had backstopped the Canucks to impressive wins in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and had given up just two goals in his last three appearances. 
If he can deliver like that, the Canucks should feel confident regardless who they will face in the opening round. And like many of his teammates who have little or no NHL post-season experience, Demko has only the 2020 bubble to draw on at this level.
But like his excitement to return to the net, Demko is clearly relishing the opportunity that lies ahead for both himself and his hockey team.
“There’s a lot of weight to perform in the playoffs – that’s when it matters,” he said. “I think we’re all excited for that opportunity finally to get in there and see what we can do. There are a lot of teams that we might get matched-up against that have more experience than us and sometimes that might be a good thing. We’re just going to go in and work hard, soak in every moment and enjoy it. Sometimes that’s a dangerous combination. I think we have a lot to prove in the playoffs. It’s been a good regular season but that’s pretty much behind us now.”
And fortunately for Thatcher Demko and the Vancouver Canucks the same can be said about his knee injury.
It looks like it’s all systems go for Demko – it’s just a matter now of when he gets the green light to get back into game action.

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