David Booth – the Vancouver Canucks's winger – will likely miss the rest of the season as he went under the knife in surgery on Friday to repair a high-ankle sprain, team president Mike Gillis said.
The loss of Booth – who the team previously said would be out "indefinitely" – is yet the latest blow for a club that pictures itself as a Stanley Cup contender. The news of Booth's surgery came as defenceman Alex Edler faces a potential suspension for a hit on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith on Thursday night, with a phone hearing at 3 p.m. PT, and wingers Zack Kassian and Chris Higgins deal with bad backs.
The roster situation became so dire that defenceman Keith Ballard played as a winger in Phoenix, a game Vancouver managed to win 2-1 to rise to fifth in the Western Conference with a 15-9-6 record and 34 points, the same as Northwest Division-leading Minnesota but with one more game played and two less wins in regulation or overtime, the main tie-break metric.
With the trade deadline approaching, Gillis – speaking Friday morning on Team 1040, the Canucks's broadcaster – said trades have been very difficult to clinch, noting that he has been looking for a centre all season. He is not looking for a winger, even as Booth is lost. Asked about whether both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo will be on the roster at year's end: "I don't know. We'll see."
As the Canucks struggle, Gillis said the team has struggled to adjust its game to this season's style, with defenders clogging the area in front of the net, and pucks getting iced regularly. Two years ago, the Canucks had the best power play in the NHL, when they nearly won the Stanley Cup. Now, they have the second-worst power play.
"We need to learn to adapt," said Gillis.
Meanwhile, attention will turn to the eventual return of Ryan Kesler, who is out with a hairline fracture in his right foot. The timetable for his return had been four-to-six weeks, with four weeks being next Wednesday. As of this week, Kesler was still on crutches with a protective foot boot, and putting no weight on his foot.
However, Gillis said Kesler had been free of pain for some time and doctors were being cautious. Kesler had already missed the first dozen games of the year, before playing seven, injuring his foot soon after his return and playing through the pain.
"He's working really hard," said Gillis. "Even though he's on crutches, he's still in the gym, working his butt off."
Gillis, without putting a timeline on it, said Kesler should be able to play quickly after getting clearance that his foot is healed.
Booth, meanwhile, might play if the Canucks make a long playoff run. Booth, in his 12 games, had two assists and one goal, an empty-netter. He had been considered a prime buy-out candidate, with two years and $9.25-million left on his contract, but it can't happen if he's still on injured reserve.