The Vancouver Canucks will face the biggest challenge of their surprisingly strong season, starting Thursday night against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, as top-line centre Bo Horvat is out indefinitely with a broken right foot.
The team said a more accurate timeline for Horvat's recovery will be known after he visits a specialist. He had a MRI on Wednesday, according to the Vancouver Province, after first-year head coach Travis Green told reporters Horvat had a "small injury" following Tuesday's 3-0 win over Carolina.
The fourth-year NHL forward appeared to jam his right leg into the boards in the third period and was spotted unable to put proper weight on the leg. He returned to the bench for a brief period, didn't step on the ice, and left for the balance of the game.
On Thursday, Canucks general manager Jim Benning announced the team had recalled forward Michael Chaput and goalie Thatcher Demko from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Utica, N.Y.
The 22-year-old Horvat has 10 goals, 20 points and a plus-5 rating in 28 games this season while averaging 18 minutes 37 seconds of ice time.
It's believed either Sam Gagner or Markus Granlund would slide into Horvat's position alongside rookies Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin on the No. 1 forward unit.
Face of rebuild
Horvat steadily improved over his first three NHL seasons and was rewarded in September, signing a six-year contract extension worth $33 million.
The native of Rodney, Ont., immediately became the face of a Canucks rebuild and viewed as the captain-in-waiting by many when 37-year-old Henrik Sedin is no longer with the team.
Last season, Horvat became the first Canucks player since 2006 not named Daniel or Henrik Sedin to lead the club in scoring after notching 20 goals and 52 points and has 49 goals and 117 points in 231 NHL regular-season games.
Vancouver drafted the six-foot, 205-pound forward ninth overall in 2013 after acquiring the pick from New Jersey for goaltender Cory Schneider.
The Canucks entered play Thursday third in the Pacific Division with a 14-10-4 record after missing the playoffs last spring for the third time in the last four seasons.
Chaput, 25, ranks third in Utica scoring this season with eight goals and 15 points in 20 AHL games. The native of Ile Bizard, Que., has recorded 17 points in 126 NHL games.
The 21-year-old Demko is tied for seventh in the AHL for wins (eight) and 12th in save percentage (.920). He posted a record of 22-17-1 in his professional debut with the Comets last season.