Cuts off first question at presser Sunday to say that Thatcher Demko is starting in goal, and then admits he’s kidding

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If Rick Tocchet is stressing out about the Vancouver Canucks playing in a Game 7 Monday, he was tucking it away and hiding it well on Sunday.

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The Canucks head coach cut off the first question during media availability after practice and proclaimed to the assembled masses that Thatcher Demko would be returning from injury and starting in goal for Vancouver in the win-or-go-home series decider against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena.

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“Actually?” Tocchet was asked.

“Yep,” he replied.

He then admitted he was kidding, which prompted a rambunctious roar in the room.


Tocchet said that he thinks the team is loose and in good spirits as well. There

wasn’t a J.T. Miller wearing Arturs Silovs’ dress shirt as a practice jersey

on display Sunday like we saw ahead of Game 6 in the opening round series against the Nashville Predators, but there was a seemingly calm, even-keeled Silovs speaking to the press afterwards.

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Silovs, the 23-year-old rookie who has pinch hit so admirably in place of Demko (knee) in the Vancouver net in these playoffs, talked about how much it meant to him that people in his native Latvia are staying up late to watch Canucks playoffs games on TV.

The conversation moved to closing time at pubs and bars there, and Silovs explained with what’s become a familiar grin that it’s 7 a.m.

Vancouver had a chance to close out this second-round set Saturday,

but the Oilers knotted it at 3-3 with a 5-1 win in Edmonton

. This is the 13th Game 7 in Canucks’ franchise history, and the first since losing 3-0 to the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round in the COVID-19 pandemic bubble 2020 playoffs in Edmonton. Vancouver has a 6-6 record in Game 7s going into Monday night.

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“A lot of guys are very confident, joking around. It’s a loose group,” Tocchet explained. “There are some guys you call tell (are nervous). It’s important you get to them, talk to them, make them understand that you’ve done it all year. Replay the good things in your head.”

Demko’s play in the regular season has him as one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy

, which goes to the NHL’s top netminder. He was hurt in Game 1 against Nashville, and when regular backup Casey DeSmith was injured in Game 3 against the Predators, the net was turned over to third-stringer Silovs.

Before these playoffs, Silovs had just nine regular season appearances with the Canucks over the past two seasons. He played 78 games over that time with the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks.

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There had been speculation that Demko could be back by the end of this series. Tocchet let it linger, including Thursday when he talked about how the goalie had “i

mproved immensely the last 72 hours.” But on Friday he said that Demko playing over the weekend “would be a stretch.” After Saturday’s game, he was even more demonstrative, telling the media “No, Thatcher Demko is not going to play Game 7.” 

Demko took some shots during Saturday’s morning skate ahead of Game 6 and he hit the ice with his teammates midway through Sunday’s practice session as well.

Through all this, no moment has seemed too big for Silovs. Monday is the first anniversary of when he recorded a shutout for Latvia in a 7-0 win over

Kazakhstan at the world championships in Finland.

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Latvia, who co-hosted the tournament, went on to finish in third spot, earning their first medal at the worlds, and Silovs was named tournament most valuable player. The Latvian government even declared a national holiday to celebrate winning the tournament. 

It’s been easy to wonder how much that experience has helped


with this run and, especially, Monday night.

“I think you just have to face it. Every single game there’s going to be pressure,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you play or what you play for. It’s always going to be like that.

“It’s a game of wills. We have an advantage, with Game 7 at home with a crowd like this. I’m sure we’re going to be all energized.”

Tocchet added: “Two weeks ago, he did the same thing. You’re it, you’re playing a playoff game. He dealt with it then. This is no different. Game 7. Same bright lights, same pressure. He’s dealt with it. He’s had crash course. He did it last summer. He’s dialed in.”

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Canucks defenceman Ian Cole has played in a team-high eight Game 7s and says that the Canuck players need to embrace the situation.

“We know it’s going to be absolutely electric in here,” he said. “We need to respond accordingly.

“Obviously Game 7 is do or die. We’re going to need to flush everything that’s happened to his point and win one hockey game.”

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