Scenes from morning skate: Demko returns, Pacific title within reach for Canucks in home finale against Flames

Photo credit:© Simon Fearn-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
10 days ago
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The Vancouver Canucks (49-22-9) can clinch the Pacific Division title with a single point tonight when they host the Calgary Flames (37-38-5) at Rogers Arena. 
It’s also awards night as the Canucks play their final home game of the National Hockey League regular season.

What we saw

All star Thatcher Demko returns to the net for the first time since suffering a knee injury on March 9th. The Canucks number one goalie has missed 14 games. During that span, the club went 7-5-2. Tonight will be Demko’s 50th start of the season. He is 34-13-2 with a 2.47 GAA, a .917 save percentage and five shutouts. That will be the only line-up change for the Canucks tonight. To activate Demko from the long-term injured list, the Canucks returned Arturs Silovs to Abbotsford earlier today.
The Canucks held an optional skate this morning. The second power play unit — Filip Hronek, Elias Lindholm, Nils Höglander, Dakota Joshua and Pius Suter — took to the ice early and on its own to work out a few kinks. Most of the team’s top scorers opted out of the skate although JT Miller was out on the ice this morning.
The Canucks are coming off a 3-1 win in Edmonton on Saturday night. Sam Lafferty, Pius Suter and Dakota Joshua scored the Vancouver goals while Casey DeSmith made 32 saves in the victory. The Canucks need one victory in their final two games to reach the 50-win mark.
Miller had an assist on the Lafferty goal and is riding a season-high 10-game point streak into tonight’s contest. He has 3+10=13 on the run that started March 23rd when he scored the game winner against the Flames in their last visit to Vancouver.
Today is Nikita Zadorov’s 29th birthday. The big blueliner picked up an assist in Edmonton on Saturday and needs one more helper for 100 in the NHL. He has 5+9=14 with 98 PIM in 52 games as a Canuck since being acquired from Calgary on November 30th.
With two games remaining, the Canucks could still face any of Nashville, Los Angeles or Vegas in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. A win of any kind tonight and the Canucks will clinch the Pacific Division and will remain in the hunt for first in the Western Conference. If held to a single point tonight, the Canucks will lock up the Pacific but will no longer be able to catch Dallas for the conference title. In that case, they would meet Nashville in the playoffs. An outright loss tonight and the Canucks can still clinch the division on Thursday in Winnipeg, however with that outcome, Edmonton will also remain in the hunt for the Pacific crown.
The Flames are here for their final road game of the season. They defeated Arizona 6-5 on home ice on Sunday. Andrei Kuzmenko had a goal and an assist and now has 4+1=5 in his last two games after scoring a hattrick in Anaheim on Friday night. Kuzmenko has 14+10=24 in 27 games since being acquired from the Canucks at the All Star break. He is red hot of late with 7+5=12 in seven games in April. Those seven goals have come on 19 shots giving Kuzmenko a 36.8% shooting percentage this month.
Yegor Sharangovich scored his team-leading 31st goal of the season on Sunday against the Coyotes. Nazem Kadri netted a pair in that game and leads the Flames with 74 points on the season. Kadri has had back to back three-point games and on Monday was named NHL’s third star of the week.
Jacob Markstrom gets the start in goal tonight. He has not played since a 4-1 loss in Los Angeles last Thursday. Markstrom has dropped three straight decisions and six of his last seven. 
On Monday, the Flames recalled 6’8” forward Adam Klapka from their AHL affiliate. He is the tallest forward in the NHL this season.
The Flames will conclude their season on Thursday night at home against San Jose.
Today’s referees: Chris Schlenker and Ghislain Hebert

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on creating urgency against the Flames who are playing out the string: “I think it comes from us. Actually Calgary’s record the last bunch of games — they’ve been playing well — they’ve got some guys that are hot. We don’t want a loose game. We want to play our style and I think that’s what it comes down to. Ii don’t have to say anything. The players know it: be ready for the puck drop.”
JT Miller on getting Thatcher Demko back and what he means to the Canucks: “I’ve been super lucky to play with Henrik Lundqvist and Andrei Vasilevskiy and he obviously fits the same bill. There are a ton of athletic goalies that are talented, but his work ethic and his brain and his mindset is what separates him from other goalies. I’ve seen that from a couple of really good ones myself. He works harder than anybody and competes harder than anybody. Put those together with an athletic person obviously you’ll get some results and he’s been unreal for us ever since I’ve been here.”
Elias Lindholm on trying replicate the performance against the Oilers from Saturday: “Bring the same game as Edmonton and hopefully play a little bit better. At this point it’s about maintaining this game that you’ve created throughout the whole season and be even better so when the time comes for playoffs, you’re at the top of your game. It’ll be a good match for us. Hopefully we can finish off a good regular season.”
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