SUN Hockey Pool

Cloutier's Canuck future on thin ice

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Oh, no, could this be the end of Dan Cloutier in Vancouver?

The former St. Thomas Stars goaltender will be out four months after knee surgery today and Canucks GM Dave Nonis has decisions to make at the helm of a Stanley Cup contending team that won't be planning a parade without quality puckstopping.

Cloutier has a partial tear in the anterior cruciate ligament, suffered when Anaheim's Rob Niedermayer charged the net on Nov. 20. Though he has little pain and has been on the ice recently, the acrobatics of playing goal would certainly aggravate the injury.

"There are a very small number of people who have what he has," Nonis told the Vancouver Province. "We felt it wasn't something you could rely on for the entire season, given that (as a goalie) he would have to go up and down on it all the time."

Nonis said if Cloutier tried to play, he could have "blown out his knee," causing severe damage.

But you have to wonder if this latest setback will cause severe damage to Cloutier's Canucks ties. Had Cloutier led Vancouver deep into the playoffs in previous years, the team would be more inclined to let him heal and throw him back in the crease.

But if Alex Auld gets the job done this year, Vancouver will have to keep him and cut loose Cloutier, who at $2.5 million is too pricey to be a backup.

If Auld falls apart and Vancouver has to rent a goalie for a playoff run, then there's another salary on the books and it could be Cloutier limping off to play for yet another NHL team.

Brother act

London Knights forward Sergei Kostitsyn's older brother Andrei scored his first NHL goal in Montreal's 5-2 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday night. Overseas at the Minsk Ice Palace, Sergei has two assists in his first two games (a win and a tie) for host Belarus at the world junior hockey B pool championships.

Mighty Mac

There have been some jaw-dropping plays in the NHL this season, but none more artful than Anaheim forward and Strathroy native Andy McDonald's spin pass on Teemu Selanne's goal in the Mighty Ducks' 3-2 loss in Toronto on Monday.

You wouldn't have seen that kind of imagination before the lockout, because McDonald was parked in the deep slot, a spot where he would have been cross-checked five times by a big defenceman and slashed repeatedly by an irate goalie under the old rule enforcement policy.

Just asking

Who would have thought we would see the day when the Philadelphia Flyers had the NHL's worst penalty kill? And after all the fuss kicked up about Mike Richards' fast start, why hasn't anybody acknowledged that Londoner Jeff Carter has caught up and, some would say, passed his buddy? Carter scored the game-winner against Columbus . . . Speaking of the Blue Jackets, why does Columbus have the worst power play in the NHL? Chalk that up to the absence of former Knight Rick Nash, who has played three games this year between an ankle sprain and a knee injury. The big goal-potter should be back before the new year and will be a good bet to produce instant magic with the meandering Sergei Fedorov.

In the sticks

Former Knight Rico Fata didn't have much luck with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, but he is seeing more success down on the farm.

Even though the parent club is struggling these days, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are marching toward one of the winningest campaigns in American Hockey League history.

After his team's lone defeat by Manitoba last Friday, Fata got a skate in the pants from head coach Michel Therrien and responded with a two-goal effort that likely saved his job.

"I'm kind of worried a little bit," Therrien had said of Fata. "He's been here for two weeks. If he wants to play in the NHL, he has to dominate at this level."

Fata said the comments got his engine going and coaches use different tactics to inspire their troops.

During the lockout, Fata was the leading scorer for the Italian League team Asiago.


Videos

Photos