(SportsNetwork.com) – The Vancouver Canucks hope to post their first three-
game winning streak since late November and they’ll have to beat a familiar
face to do so.
The Canucks expect to face former franchise goaltender Roberto Luongo on
Thursday when they welcome the Florida Panthers to Rogers Arena.
Luongo is returning to Vancouver for the first time since his successful but
tumultuous run with the Canucks ended with him being dealt to Florida on March
4 of last season.
The former Canucks captain spent seven-plus seasons in Vancouver, anchoring
the team to consecutive Presidents’ Trophies (2010-11, 2011-12) and also
helping the Canucks get to within one victory of a Stanley Cup title in 2011
against the Boston Bruins.
Luongo also is Vancouver’s all-time leader in wins (233) and shutouts (35).
His goals against average of 2.36 is second in the club annals to only Cory
Schneider (2.20), who challenged Luongo for the No. 1 job with the Canucks
before getting dealt to New Jersey in the summer of 2013.
“To be honest, I’m just looking forward to being (in Vancouver) for four days
and obviously ending it with a game in front of the crowd there,” Luongo
recently told the media. “I’m not quite sure what type of reception I’m going
to get, but I’ll definitely enjoy the game that’s for sure.”
Luongo expects to face off tonight against Ryan Miller, who signed with
Vancouver in the offseason. Both goaltenders are doing well in 2014-15, with
Luongo sporting a 15-7-7 record, 2.28 goals against average and .924 save
percentage, while Miller is 20-8-1 with a 2.46 GAA and .913 save percentage in
his first season with the Canucks.
Eddie Lack, Luongo’s former backup and Miller’s current No. 2, helped the
Canucks to a win the last time out. Lack made 21 saves in Vancouver’s 3-2
victory over the visiting New York Islanders on Tuesday.
Linden Vey tallied the eventual game-winner late in the second period, scoring
on a breakaway with 2:34 left in the middle stanza.
“You’ve always got to be ready,” said Vey of making the most of his
Ryan Stanton and Nick Bonino also lit the lamp for the Canucks, who own a
5-1-1 record over their last seven games and are tied with San Jose for second
place in the Pacific Division. Vancouver will shoot for its first three-game
winning streak since Nov. 23-28 when it takes on the Panthers.
Vancouver owns an 11-6-1 record on home ice and is playing the fourth part of
a five-game homestand tonight.
Florida is just three points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference,
but the Panthers haven’t helped their cause recently, going 1-2-1 over their
last four games.
The Panthers fell to 1-1-0 on a six-game road trip after dropping Sunday’s 4-3
decision in Washington. Alex Ovechkin notched a goal and an assist to help the
Capitals deal Florida a regulation loss.
Florida’s Nick Bjugstad made it a one-goal game with 1:59 to play in
regulation, but Florida was unable to tie it. Dylan Olsen and Vincent Trocheck
also scored for the Panthers.
“We weren’t good enough, but we battled back and found a way to come closer at
the end,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We can’t wait until the end of
the game to get involved physically.”
Luongo gave up three goals on 21 shots over the first 40 minutes, but was
replaced by Al Montoya, who turned aside 4-of-5 shots fired his way during the
final stanza. Luongo took a hit from Ovechkin in the first period and gutted
out the second before the injury caused him to exit the game for precautionary
The Panthers dodged a bullet with the Luongo injury and they also could get a
handful of skaters back for tonight’s test. Forwards Tomas Kopecky and Tomas
Fleischmann and defenseman Erik Gudbranson practiced on Tuesday and all three
players could be back in the lineup tonight.
Kopecky missed the last four games with an undisclosed injury. Fleischmann
(undisclosed) and Gudbranson (upper body) sat out the last two outings.
Vancouver forwards Brad Richardson (knee) and Radim Vrbata (illness) are
questionable for tonight.
The Panthers have won two of the last three meetings against Vancouver, but
the Canucks have dominated this series over the years. Vancouver boasts a
12-3-2 record with five ties over the last 22 meetings against Florida.
Florida only has managed two all-time road wins over the Canucks, but the
Panthers were able to halt an 11-game winless stretch in Vancouver with a 3-2
shootout win at Rogers Arena on Nov. 19, 2013.