Canucks Report - Luongo starting, Wellwood sitting

Thursday, 15.01.2009 / 4:52 PM / Features
Vancouver Canucks
Luongo


This week on Canucks.com
Injury report
Current lineup
Tale of the tape

Game day skate

Larscheid report

Sundin's journey
CAPTAIN’S BACK

Luongo is back and looking to make up for lost time as he starts against the Phoenix Coyotes.

“I’m excited, I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time so I’m really excited to get it going tonight,” said Luongo.

“I think the first few shots are definitely going to be important for me to just get back into the rhythm a little bit there. I'll just try to come with the same mentality I had before the injury and making sure I’m ready to do my job and focused for 60 minutes.”

The Canucks faced the Coyotes back in November prior to Luongo's injury when he shut them out to earn a 1-0 victory over Wayne Gretzky’s young club.

“They’re a good team, they’ve got four good lines, they’ve got good youth with a really high skill level, a great leader in [Shane] Doan," said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. "Their defence is physical and dependable and their goaltender has been playing well.”

The Canucks will want a strong start against the Coyotes. Vancouver is 14-0-2 when leading after 2 periods and 17-6-4 when they score first. Both teams look to rebound from losses and gain footing in the Western division.

“Obviously a good start to tonight’s game is something we’re looking for,” said Vigneault. “We’ve been pointing out a few areas that we’d like to get better at with our team here. Outnumbering defensively, if you do that you get the puck back quicker, you spend less time in your zone. Better reads on the forecheck and quicker at creating turnovers, maybe capitalizing on that.”

The Canucks (22-18-5) sit ahead of the Coyotes (21-18-5) by only two points in the Western Conference. Luongo’s return will likely give his team a positive lift, but the players are staying focused on their game plan.

“We’re all watching the standings, we all know what it’s like, it’s a huge game for us," said Mason Raymond. "We need to get this win and carry on and string some wins together. Start catching the Flames and put a little spread between us and the teams behind us.

“I think we’re all excited that Louie’s back in the lineup, but on the same token we’ve got to be good upfront. He’ll make the first stop and we’ll clear out the rest."

HANSEN FOR WELLWOOD

Vigneault has made a couple changes to his lineup as his team heads into tonight’s game desperate for a win at home after dropping five consecutive games at GM Place.

Forward Kyle Wellwood will be a healthy scratch, joining Mike Brown watching the game from the press box. Jannik Hansen will slot back into the lineup after sitting out for Tuesday's game against the Devils.

“Kyle’s an offensive player that’s given an offensive role, that plays on the power play," said Vigneault. "He’s got very good qualities as far as reading the play offensively, he hasn’t been a liability defensively.  As that type of offensive player he’s got to come up on the chance sheet and he hasn’t been coming up on it whether it be on the power play or 5-on-5.

“I like Jannik’s speed. I’m hoping that might help Mats, and I’m hoping that Pavol’s going to help Mats. Jannik Hansen hasn’t had one power play second all year and he’s one point behind Kyle Wellwood. So we’ll see what happens."

Wellwood leads the team with goals on the power play with eight, but understands that as the team struggles players have to step up their game. The head coach shuffles his lines according to the opposition, but a main factor in his decisions is performance.

“You never want to lose your spot on the team,” said Wellwood. “We’ve been struggling to get some wins. He’s got to shake things up.

“It’s a team game and you’ve got to define a role for yourself in the club. I hadn’t scored a lot lately, I’d been missing some chances and those goals have added up in the losses. So I’ve got to come back in and play better and try to get back to being more consistent.”

Wellwood is sitting on 19 points (14-5-19) from 40 games. Hansen was re-assigned to the Manitoba Moose earlier this month and responded to the short two-game stint in the AHL, by scoring a goal his first game back in Vancouver. The 22 year old Dane has amassed 18 points (5-13-18) in 39 games this season.

Hansen will play with Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra tonight. Taylor Pyatt, who hit a milestone in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to New Jersey, his 500th career game, is expected to play alongside the Sedins.

Lawrence Nycholat is believed to be filling out the lineup, with Rob Davison as the healthy scratch, but Vigneault did not confirm this following the game day skate.

Tonight’s game faces off at 7:00pm PST and can be seen on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific.

SANFORD HEADS TO MANITOBA

General Manager Mike Gillis announced today that goaltender Curtis Sanford has been re-assigned to the Manitoba Moose of the AHL after clearing waivers.

Sanford, 29, posted a record of 7-8-0 in 19 games played with the Canucks this season. In addition, he recorded one shutout with a 2.59 Goals-Against-Average and a .906 Save Percentage. In 108 career games, Sanford has posted a record of 37-37-11, with a 2.76 GAA and .901 Save Percentage.

The 5-foot-10, 185 lbs. native of Owen Sound, Ontario was signed as a free agent by Vancouver on July 2, 2007.

FANTASY HOCKEY: Check out Canucks Fantasy Hockey, a free online game that allows you to play against other Vancouver Canucks fans as you attempt to earn the most points during each of the Vancouver Canucks' regular season hockey games.