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Carson Soucy injury hurts Canucks in multiple ways

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Carson Soucy is expected to miss five to six weeks with a hand injury.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Carson Soucy will miss time with another injury.

Carson Soucy has already missed time this season with two separate injuries. Now he's expected to miss several more weeks.

Soucy suffered an injury to his left knee during the preseason that took him out of commission for the first two games of the season, then took a puck to the back of his left leg in November that took him out for two months.

Thankfully, Soucy's left leg was left alone this time. Instead, he reportedly has an injury to his right hand, though head coach Rick Tocchet was quick to couch it as "basically upper whatever" to avoid specificity.

"He's gonna probably be out five to six weeks," said Tocchet. "Yeah, that's a tough break for him, he just can't get a break."

Soucy blocked a shot that hit his right hand during Saturday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While he finished his shift, Soucy did not return to the game, missing the entire third period.

It was an innocent-looking play: a Mitch Marner wrist shot from the point that Soucy intentionally batted aside with his hand on his stick. Soucy immediately reacted, however, and looked uncomfortable for the rest of his shift, checking his right hand multiple times.

It was Soucy's only shot block of the game.

While it's a tough break — perhaps literally — for Soucy, it's also a tough break for the Canucks, who have heavily relied on Soucy since his return to the lineup, not in terms of minutes but in terms of role.

At 5-on-5, Soucy has primarily played in a match-up role alongside Tyler Myers on the second pairing, regularly facing tough competition. Only Filip Hronek among Canucks defencemen has spent a higher percentage of his ice time against elite competition according to PuckIQ

Despite the tough assignment, Soucy has maintained strong underlying numbers with a score-adjusted corsi percentage and expected goals percentage above 50%. More than that, he's elevated Tyler Myers' game. Without Soucy, Myers has a 48.8% corsi; with Soucy, they have a 51.2% corsi.

In other words, Soucy helps the Canucks control play at 5-on-5, using his long reach and sound positioning to break up plays and then his smooth skating and calm passing to break the puck out cleanly and prevent long shifts in the defensive zone. Ironically, Soucy's injury happened on an uncharacteristically long shift stuck in the defensive zone, showing the risks of spending too much time in your own end of the ice.

Beyond 5-on-5, Soucy has also played a significant role on the penalty kill, where he's been on the ice for the lowest rate of goals against among Canucks defencemen. The penalty kill has thrived of late, killing off 44 of their last 50 penalties over the last 18 games. Soucy's return in early January certainly helped those sterling numbers.

Fortunately for the Canucks, they have some depth on defence to work with. Noah Juulsen, who was forced out of the lineup when Soucy returned, had massively improved his game since the start of the season and will draw back into the lineup, while the Canucks also have called up Mark Friedman from the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL, where he had 4 points in 4 games.

"That's why it's so important to have D depth," said Tocchet. "[Juulsen] was out when really he could have still been playing for us. What I love about him, he's ready to go, he works hard in practice. That's why it's important that you have character guys like that that are team guys and he'll be ready. He's played well for us, so I'm not concerned about Noah."

Still, with Soucy out the Canucks might mix up the pairings for Monday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks. During the morning skate, Quinn Hughes was paired with Myers, while Hronek skated on the second pairing with Nikita Zadorov. That left Ian Cole to reunite with Juulsen on the third pairing.