Canucks Report - Luongo playing in All Star game
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The right direction
3,000 and counting
Before the break
Sunday was a milestone night for the Canucks as the club played its 3,000th game and d-man Willie Mitchell registered his 100th NHL point, an assist on Kevin Bieksa’s game tying goal that pushed overtime.
Despite losing 6-5 to Columbus in a shootout, the Canucks were the better team for the majority of the game except for a few breakdowns that the Blue Jackets converted into goals.
“Obviously you don’t want to give up a two goal lead, but once we were down 5-3 I think we showed a lot of character,” said captain Roberto Luongo.
“The guys really don’t quit and go after it. I mean what this team has been through the last couple weeks they could have easily just put their heads down and called it a night. But we battled back and were able to tie it up. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the win, but it was a good sign and obviously we worked hard last night.
“There’s no a game plan for a shootout. It’s just a matter of trusting our guys that are shooting and me making the saves. Unfortunately I was a little rusty for the shootout last night, I hadn’t really taken any breakaways since I’ve been back on the ice. I went down a little early on the first one. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem down the stretch. We have some good shooters and once I get back in the rhythm we’ll be fine."
The team will get a positive boost for tomorrow night's game against the Sharks in San Jose as veteran defenceman Sami Salo slots back into the lineup after missing 15 games with a fractured rib.
“It’s never easy to be out of the lineup especially when the team is struggling a little bit, but you can’t do anything about it except to support the guys," said Salo who felt good after today's morning practice. "It’s been tough but finally the time has come to play some games again.”
“It’s a big boost for us, Sami’s been a big part of the team," said assistant captain Mattias Ohlund. "Obviously we need him back and we’re excited. Hopefully he can help us, our group play a bit better on the back end.
“He plays 20+ minutes a night, he plays a lot of time on the power play and he’s a big threat with his shot. So anytime you’re missing a guy like that you’re going to notice it."
Ohlund gave his team a scare when he took a puck to the back of the leg last night and went to the dressing room leaving a trail of blood behind. However, after receiving a few stitches Ohlund came back to finish the game. The tough Swede felt fine today although along with the Sedins and Willie Mitchell he opted out of today's short practice.
“I blocked a shot and just got a cut, but I feel fine now, it’s not a big deal” said Ohlund. [The puck struck] just under my knee pad, but obviously I was able to finish the game and I feel fine today.
“You’re never comfortable when you see a lot of blood. We figured out pretty quick, the doctors and trainers, that it wasn’t a big deal. I feel fine today and look forward to tomorrow."
Pavol Demitra tweaked his groin during yesterday's loss and will not play tomorrow. However, head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters today that he expects Demitra to be back in the lineup after the All Star break.
CAPTAIN ALL STAR
The Canucks have had a couple of rough weeks heading into the All Star break, but showed significant improvement in their play last night. The players hope to have a solid effort tomorrow in San Jose and head into the break on a high note.
“Every team goes through tough times over a season," said Mats Sundin. "This team right now, we’re facing adversity, but it’s how you come out of it that determines how you’re going to be as a team. Detroit last year went through some tough times, every team in this league does, I don’t care where you are in the standings, it’s how you deal with, how you come out of it, will be the difference."
Captain Roberto Luongo doesn't buy into suggestions that the break is coming at a bad time for him as he tries to regain his rhythm after missing 24 games with a groin injury. Luongo will play in the All Star game, but has not yet discussed with Vigneault whether he will participate in the skills competition.
“I think it’s a good thing that I’ll be going to the All Star game to get a bit of work done, we’ll have a practice and I’ll play a period," said Luongo. "So I’m happy to be doing that rather than sitting at home doing nothing. [The timing of the break] doesn’t really matter that’s just the circumstances, the way it is. For me it’s just a matter of trying to build a little momentum going into the break and obviously afterwards.”
Luongo is not the only player with plans for the All Star break, while the Canucks star goaltender will be busy facing pucks against the top Eastern Conference players and finding his stride, the rest of the team will be re-energizing in their own ways.
“I think anytime a team is going some adversity and tough times you want to try to get back on track before you have a break so hopefully we can finish on a good note tomorrow,” said Sundin.
The Swedish centre will remain close to Vancouver during the break and continue training to regain top NHL form.
“In terms of the ice, I haven’t decided how much I’m going to skate during the break, but I’ll be working out every day, so that’s not going to change," said Sundin.
Vigneault refuses to throw his players under the bus for mistakes as the team struggles, because of their work ethic. The team has battled through numerous injuries and are trying to re-establish themselves.
“Obviously it is a challenge, but it’s a challenge not just for those guys [Sundin and Luongo getting back to NHL level] but for our whole group right now, to get our game on track to where it’s going to permit us to win,” said Vigneault.
“But those are real professionals, you’re talking about Roberto, you’re talking about Mats, and any other guy on our team. They’re working extremely hard to get on track and that’s why we as coaches or management are going to be behind those players. We’re confident that when they do get their game to where it needs to be we’re going to get on a roll.”
“We’ve got five days off and then two good practices and we’ll be right back at it, but we’ve got a big game tomorrow, get a win there and it’ll be a good break,” said Daniel Sedin.
OTHER NEWS: Goaltender Curtis Sanford played his first game with the Manitoba Moose this weekend after being re-assigned by Vancouver. The Owen Sound native turned away 26 shots to earn his team a shutout victory against the Lake Erie Monsters in AHL action.