Game Day: Roberto Luongo gets Avalanche call — 'Tonight, Louie is No. 1' (with video)
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks have lost two in a row and so have their opponents tonight, the Colorado Avalanche, as the young NHL season hits the middle of its second week.
It's still far too early to proclaim either team a dud but facts are facts: the Canucks have won only two of six starts and twice lost when leading after two periods. The Avalanche are 2-3-0 with all three losses coming on the road by a combined score of 12-3.
Roberto Luongo will start tonight vs. the Avs (7 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040), his third start in seven games and second straight. He was excellent Monday in the Canucks' 3-2 shootout loss to the L.A. Kings and carries a 2.20 goals against average and .917 save percentage into the contest. Cory Schneider, by contrast, has a 3.12 GAA and .897 save rate.
Luongo shrugged when asked if he was surprised to be starting ahead of Schneider.
“I don't know,” he replied. “I mean, like I've been saying, I just get ready to play every day and when I'm called upon, I just want to be ready. I'm excited to be getting the start tonight and, hopefully, build a little bit off the last game and get a win.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told reporters at his morning press gathering the decision to play Luongo was not based on any sort of injury.
“My decision, it's just my call,” he explained. “Got back yesterday and that's what I decided.”
Asked if it was his well-known ‘spidey sense’ or a gut feeling, he shrugged and replied: “My call.”
Asked who then was his No. goaltender, Vigneault: said “Well, tonight, Louie is No. 1. He's playing. I' m not going to get into all the logistics of what goes into making a decision. Those are internal things and we'll just leave it at that.”
The Canucks may have one lineup change up front as Vigneault said one of his forwards is nicked. If that anonymous forward can't go — and all players took the morning skate — then Andrew Ebbett will draw in.
“We've got a decision to make there as far as injury,” he said. “We'll see how the warmup goes.”
Both the Canucks and Avs have significant forwards out of their lineup as the Canucks continue to plod along without speedy Ryan Kesler and David Booth while the Avs are without Gabriel Landeskog and Steve Downie as well as unsigned restricted free agent centre Ryan O'Reilly. The latter led Colorado in scoring last season with 55 points.
Landeskog, the new team captain, is out indefinitely after being run over by San Jose defenceman Brad Stuart on Saturday.
“Same situation, head and leg injury,” said Colorado head coach Joe Sacco. “There is no timetable as of right now for his return.”
New faces on the Avalanche this season are forward P.A. (Pierre-Alexandr) Parenteau and defenceman Greg Zanon. Among those gone are Peter Mueller, Jay McClement and Kevin Porter.
Both the Canucks and Avs have been poor on special team to date. Vancouver's power play is 17th (0-for-10) the last two games while the penalty kill is a dismal 26th. Colorado's power play ranks 29th and its. P.K. 24th. In the faceoff circle, the Canucks rank 27th and the Avalanche 21st.
Semyon Varlamov, who has a 2.59 GAA and .919 save percentage, will start in goal for the Avs.
“He's been playing very well for us so he'll get the nod again tonight,” Sacco said.
One-time Canucks defenceman Shane O'Brien will be a healthy scratch for the Avs for the fifth time in six games. Rookie centre Michael Sgarbossa will make his NHL debut tonight for the Avs, centring the team's third line.
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks were 6-0-0 vs. the Avalanche last season and are 15-0-2 vs. the Avalanche in their last 17 meetings. The Canucks' last regulation loss to Colorado occurred on Oct. 3, 2009 ... Referees for tonight's game are Brad Watson and Brad Meier ... Henrik Sedin needs five points to tie, and six to pass Markus Naslund as the Canucks' all-time scoring leader. Naslund finished his Vancouver days with 756 points.
INJURIES: The Avalanche will be without Gabriel Landeskog (head, leg) and RW Steve Downie (torn ACL)... The Canucks will again be missing C Ryan Kesler (wrist, shoulder) and LW David Booth (groin).
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