The Vancouver Canucks (30-29-10) will meet an old friend in the opposition crease today when they play the third game of their four-game road trip today taking on Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers (25-35-7).
Under normal circumstances, a mid-March game against the Panthers would register very low on the hype meter. But then again, these aren't normal circumstances. For one afternoon, the focus around the Canucks will shift away from their struggles and the likelihood that they will finish outside the playoffs for the first time since 2007.08 and to the first meeting between the Canucks and their former franchise goaltender. You'd have to figure that emotions will run high for players on both sides as the two teams clash for the first time since the trade that rocked the Canucks' franchise and the one that galvanized the Panthers' organization.
The Panthers, who will finish outside the playoff picture this season for the second year in a row, haven't exactly been firing on all cylinders since the big trade going just 2-3-0 since. They are, however, coming off a 5-3 win over the Devils on Friday after Luongo out-dueled his former understudy, Cory Schneider, in that affair. This is the second and final meeting between the Canucks and Panthers this season. Florida squeaked out a 3-2 shootout win back on November 19 at Rogers Arena. New Canuck Shawn Matthias had the game-tying goal in the third period of that game. Eddie Lack will pick up his 10th consecutive start today.
Puck drop at 12 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, THE TEAM 1040, or online at www.teamradio.ca.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. The ex-Cats show their claws. There are more than a few Canucks who once called South Florida home, most notably Shawn Matthias who will be looking to make an impact in his first game against his former foes after being involved in the Luongo deal. While every Canuck ought to be fired up to face Luongo, those ex-Panthers should be even more motivated to lead the way.
2. Get started the right way. The Panthers are a team that don't win often if they fall behind first (.225 win percentage when giving up the opening goal) so the Canucks need to be the ones that get on the scoreboard first.
3. Luongo has his moment. There is no player on either side who will want to win this game as badly as Roberto Luongo. For eight years Roberto was a great soldier for the Canucks but the end to his career in Vancouver left something to be desired. You know he'll be fired up to stick it to his old club.
DID YOU KNOW?
When Luongo made his return to the Panthers, it was as if no time had passed in Florida. Luongo still holds several Panthers franchise records including most career games played (319), most career wins (110) and most career shutouts (27).
Luongo is one of just four goaltenders in NHL history to play in at least 300 games for two different franchises along with Gilles Meloche (Seals/Barons, North Stars), Patrick Roy (Canadiens, Avalanche) and Ed Belfour (Blackhawks, Stars).
.500 – Win record for Luongo since returning to the Panthers. He is 2-2-0 with 1 shutout, a .919 save pct. and a 2.52 GAA.
0 – Career wins for Luongo against the Canucks. Vancouver is the only NHL team he has never beaten.
2 – Career games played by Luongo against the Canucks in his career.
2 – Game winless streak for the Canucks in head-to-head games against the Panthers (0-1-1) dating back to Jan. 9, 2012.
4 – Years since the Canucks' last win in Florida – a 3-0 victory on Feb. 11, 2010. Luongo had the shutout that night.
312 – Career games played by Shawn Matthias with the Panthers. He had 48 goals and 97 points during his time in Florida.
IN THE INFIRMARY
For the Canucks…
F Brad Richardson (undisclosed) is doubtful. F Ryan Kesler (sprained right knee) is out. F Daniel Sedin (strained left hamstring), F Mike Santorelli (shoulder surgery) and D Andrew Alberts (head) are on the injured reserve list.
For the Panthers…
F Sean Bergenheim (lower body) is questionable. D Erik Gudbranson (sprained knee) and F Jesse Winchester (lower body) are out. F Aleksander Barkov (sprained knee), F Tomas Kopecky (concussion) and D Alex Petrovic (undisclosed) are on the injured reserve list.
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