Canucks brace for Panthers and return of Luongo
The Vancouver Canucks had a busy practice on Saturday in Burnaby.
They skated at their old stomping grounds at Burnaby 8 Rinks, a day before they faced the Florida Panthers at Rogers Arena.
The multi-rink facility was the Canucks’ practice base from 1995 to 2001. They have used the main rink there on occasion since, but generally go to the University of B.C. when they aren’t able to practise at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks are scheduled to practise there again on Jan. 19. Today is the first time the Canucks will face the Panthers since “the incident” that saw Florida defenceman Mike Matheson knock Elias Pettersson from the lineup with a concussion.
“Our focus is on winning tomorrow,” Canucks coach Travis Green said flatly when asked what his team was thinking about ahead of the game.
The other question, of course, is will this be the final time the Vancouver faithful get to see the greatest goalie in Canucks history in action?
It has been a tough season for Roberto Luongo. He’ll turn 40 in April. His save percentage is .891 at the moment, well below his career standard. He does hours of stretching and physio work, day in and day out, to keep himself in game shape.
As long as he’s performing well, you assume he’ll keep playing.
Just two Canucks remain from his tenure in Vancouver: Chris Tanev and Alex Edler.
Green didn’t coach Luongo, but as someone who played until he was 38, he was in awe of the veteran goalie’s ability to remain competitive as he approached 40.
“We’re talking about a special athlete,” he said. “He’s had an amazing career. Guys that are that elite and play that long are pretty exceptional.” Josh Leivo skated on a line with Nikolay Goldobin and Markus Granlund at practice. He called his status “day to day” but was optimistic about his status for today’s game.
“It was a scare. Thought it was a lot worse than it actually was,” he said of the back spasms that started early in a game 10 days ago in Ottawa. He missed the next three games.
“First couple days were real tough, but each day has gotten a lot better,” he said.
If Leivo is activated from the injured reserve list, the Canucks will have to make a roster move, either returning Adam Gaudette to Utica or placing another player on waivers. Pettersson took a twirl on the ice after his teammates practised, in an effort to test his sprained knee’s strength and agility.
He took a short skate Friday as well and might skate again on his own today. He won’t play against the Panthers, but if all goes well, a return to action Wednesday against the Oilers doesn’t seem out of the question.