It's EBUG time! Mikey DiPietro starts, Rylan Toth backs up in Canucks/Blues
Sunday January 23 - Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues - 7 p.m.
It's now the Canucks' turn to navigate their way through Covid chaos in the crease.
The big club will be relying on Mikey DiPietro in net for Sunday night's contest between the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues.
DiPietro served as backup on Friday, when Spencer Martin delivered a strong performance against the Florida Panthers. Martin gave up just one goal on 34 shots through 65 minutes of action against the second-highest scoring team in the league on Friday night, before Aleksander Barkov got the better of him in the shootout. But Martin then went into Covid protocol, which makes him unavailable on Sunday night.
For DiPietro, it will be his third NHL appearance, and second career start.
He was memorably torched for seven goals on 24 shots by the San Jose Sharks as a 19-year-old on Feb. 11, 2019, when both Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko were unable to play due to injuries (although Markstrom did back up).
On Dec. 15, 2019, DiPietro played 8:23 and gave up one goal on seven shots in relief after Markstrom was pulled on the way to a 6-3 loss in Vegas.
Selected by the Canucks in the third round of the 2017 draft, DiPietro's track to the NHL has been upset by Covid — most notably last year, when he spent most of last season on the taxi squad and only saw four games of action with the Utica Comets.
This year has been sub-par for him in Abbotsford. He has the poorest numbers of the team's three primary netminders with a 4-7-2 record, .896 save percentage and 3.19 goals-against average.
But as I've mentioned before, there have been a few situations around the NHL this year where just-OK AHL goalkeepers have been forced into service due to Covid issues, and performed quite well. For an example, DiPietro needs to just look down the hall at Rogers Arena right now, to Sunday's opponent, the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues have used five goalies so far this season. The one with the best numbers of the bunch is Charlie Lindgren, a 28-year-old who has just 29 career NHL games to his credit. He went 5-0-0 when called into service by the Blues in December, with a 1.22 goals-against average and .958 save percentage.
Lindgren is now back in the AHL, and has been playing well with the Springfield Thunderbirds this season, where he's 9-1-1. But in his four previous seasons with the Laval Rocket in the Montreal Canadiens organization, he never posted a save percentage above .900.
Goalies are weird.
Now that they're healthy, the Blues are back to running their regular goalie tandem of Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso. They're in the midst of a three-in-four, where Husso got the 5-0 win in Seattle on Friday, and they're also playing Monday in Calgary. So if Craig Berube continues his rotation, it should be Binnington against the Canucks and Husso against the Flames.
At 7-2-1 for the year, Husso actually has the best numbers for the Blues, who are once again in the mix at the top of the Central Division. But St. Louis has played 22 of its 40 games this season at home so far and has been nearly unbeatable at Enterprise Center, with a 16-4-2 record. On the road, they're a much more moderate 8-7-4.
They've been through the gauntlet with injuries and Covid, but they won't have Pavel Buchnevich in their lineup on Sunday against Vancouver. He's through the NHL's new five-day Covid isolation period, but has not yet reached the 10-day threshold that he needs to cross into Canada. So he's stuck in Seattle for the moment, but will be able to re-join his club in Calgary on Monday.
Here's how the Blues' lines rolled at Sunday's morning skate.
This is the first meeting between the Canucks and the Blues since Vancouver dispatched the then-defending-champions in the first round of the playoff bubble in Edmonton back in July of 2020.
As for the Canucks, their skating group remains basically intact from Friday's matchup against the Panthers.
Looks like Kyle Burroughs could draw back in over Brad Hunt on the blue line, after he was scratched in the last game.
And while Bruce Boudreau is getting set to coach his 1,000th career NHL game, a couple of his assistants have also landed in protocol. The Canucks will be without Scott Walker and Kyle Gustafson against the Blues — along with Garland, Horvat and Miller, who are all still absent along with Demko and Halak.
And yes, that means we've got an EBUG situation for Vancouver tonight. Here's the scoop on Rylan Toth, a 25-year-old out of Saskatoon.
The goalie issue runs all the way to Abbotsford, too. After Martin and DiPietro were recalled by the Canucks, the AHL squad signed 23-year-old Joe Murdaca to a professional tryout contract out of the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL.
In his first career AHL game on Saturday, Murdaca allowed three goals on 16 shots — good enough to earn a 6-3 home win for Abbotsford over the San Diego Gulls.
Arturs Silovs backed up on Saturday, but he has also now been placed in Covid protocol. So Murdaca will get another start on Sunday for the rematch against the Gulls, with an EBUG also in place in Abbotsford.
Puck drop in Abbotsford is set for 4 p.m. PT; the Canucks host the Blues at Rogers Arena at 7:00.
Enjoy the games!