Injury Woes, Fourth Line Instability and a Zenon Konopka Rumor

After a period of relative stability and good health, it looks like the Canucks are getting bit by the injury bug again.

The Canucks lost Aaron Rome and Alex Bolduc to injuries against the Washington Capitals on Friday night; according to Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province), Rome is expected to be out for 2-3 weeks and Bolduc is expected to be out a bit longer than that.

But also, the Canucks lost Andrew Alberts to a suspected shoulder injury during last night’s loss to the Minnesota Wild. Chris Tanev, who was recalled earlier as a seventh defenseman in Rome’s absence, may in fact draw in the lineup when the Canucks face the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

A couple of thoughts:

While the roster decisions on defense is pretty cut-and-dry – and no, I don’t expect Sami Salo to miraculously be able to play right away – the decisions up front isn’t as clear.

For starters, I doubt the Canucks want to keep rotating Jeff Tambellini and Tanner Glass as their fourth line center. That said, the next few natural centres on the depth chart – Cody Hodgson, Joel Perrault and Stefan Schneider – are all injured, though Hodgson was finally back on skates this week. Jay Grossman tweeted that Sergei Shirokov, Grossman’s client, has been recalled by the Canucks but while Shirokov has played great for the Moose, he isn’t a natural centre.

More from Botch:

The Canucks will temporarily fill his spot and are expected to recall a forward from Manitoba this week. Maybe it will be Sergei Shirokov or Viktor Oreskovich. But Vancouver will look for ways to do better. A name getting some traction locally is Islanders centre Zenon Konopka.

When pressed on it, GM Mike Gillis dropped this:

“Well, Cody (Hodgson) is supposed to play this week, we’ll see how he does.”

Hodgson has missed nearly six weeks of action since being clipped by Lee Sweatt’s stick; I doubt the Canucks would call him so quickly after his return.

Which kinda leads to Konopka.

Konopka is an intriguing possibility. First, his $600,000 cap hit is fairly close to Bolduc’s $500,000 so fitting him under the cap won’t be an issue. (Because they’re not using all of Salo’s LTIR exemption right now, the Canucks actually have enough cap room for Konopka’s even if Bolduc doesn’t go on LTIR.) But also – and more importantly – he can play. With the Isles, Konopka averages about 10 minutes of ice-time per game and is a regular on the penalty-kill. He currently leads the league with 143 PIM, but has only taken 14 minors in 43 games. And the kicker? He’s ranked 5th in the league in faceoff percentage (58.8%).

It’s not clear on Botch’s piece whether Konopka was a player the Canucks are rumored to have interest in or if he’s just a name someone on the beat randomly tossed out as a possible, more permanent replacement on the fourth line. At the very least, it’s good fodder for discussion.

J.J. Guerrero

Founder and Executive Editor of Canucks Hockey Blog. Proud Canadian, hardcore Canucks fan. I would like nothing more than watching the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. Against the Leafs.

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