Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 02/12/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks have passed an adversity test as the quarter point of the lockout-shortened NHL season approaches.
Heading into today's home game against the Minnesota Wild, the Canucks have fashioned a five-game win streak -- matching their best run of a season ago -- even though some questions remain unanswered.
With game No. 12 of 48 looming, Vancouver (7-2-2) has strung together wins while dealing with an ongoing saga about its goaltending situation and injuries to second-line forwards Ryan Kesler and David Booth that have forced lineup shuffles.
"Those questions were from the outside," said coach Alain Vigneault. "From the inside, like we've mentioned all along, we're focused on a game-to-game basis. We always knew that we had two good goaltenders who both have a team-first attitude and want the team to win.
"So we never thought that would be a big issue, and injuries are part of the game. We said at the beginning of the year that we were going to play with the guys that were healthy and available, and that's what we've done."
Not necessarily in convincing fashion.
The power play, ranked 20th in the league with a nine-for-56 conversion rate (16.1 per cent) has struggled, and Vigneault made tweaks to it during a practice Monday at Rogers Arena. Vancouver's penalty-killing, also ranked 20th (77.8 per cent kill rate) has not been outstanding either.
But the Canucks have caught a strong goaltending wave. Roberto Luongo, who will start against Minnesota, sits second in the league with a 1.53 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and 3-0-2 record.
Cory Schneider, who has drawn the backup assignment after posting wins over Calgary and Minnesota, also sports impressive numbers with one shutout, a 2.36 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
"The good thing about (the streak) is we're finding different ways to win," said Luongo.
The Canucks, he added, are "rounding into form" by playing their systems really well. After getting burned for seven goals in a season-opening loss to Anaheim, the Canucks have allowed two goals or less in nine of their past 10 games.
"We take pride in that, not only the goalies but as a team," said Luongo. "It's important to play well defensively. We all know, at the end of the day, that's what's going to make us go far.
"We have the offence, but we're not going to score three or four goals every game. As long as we're playing well defensively, we'll keep ourselves in the game."
Luongo has also been able to keep his head in the game despite trying circumstances. He continues to excel while appearing calm and comfortable despite the uncertainty of a pending trade after he was displaced as the starter by Schneider in last spring's Stanley Cup playoffs.
"You don't want to be just moping around and bringing negative energy into the dressing room," said Luongo. "That would a huge distraction for the boys and for myself. It doesn't really do any good."
-- The Canadian Press
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2013 C5
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Offense rules as Tavares scores 4 in Team Toews' 17-12 win
NHL pitches a no-hitter
Coyotes star had emergency surgery at HSC
ALL-STAR GAME Notebook
NHL all-star game
Johansen gets hometown nod in NHL All-Star game MVP vote
Canadiens recall Thomas from Bulldogs
Blackhawks place LW Versteeg on long-term injured list
Is NHL ready to gamble on Vegas?
Buff just wants to have fun
Flames' Gaudreau added to all-star game
World Cup format a winner
Weber shows off shot at skills competition
Ex-arena official sues NJ Devils GM over lost wages
Lightning's Johnson ruled out of All-Star skills competition
What World Cup all-star teams may look like
World Cup of Hockey returns in 2016
Dream come true for Seabrook
Nugent-Hopkins, Forsberg picked last in NHL All-Star Draft
Kessel at centre of all-star draft laughs
Penguins star Crosby has injection for lower-body injury
NHL all-star weekend missing big stars
Crosby out of all-star game with injury
Predators rookie added to All-Star Game; Malkin, Crosby out
McDavid lucky to have Orr to lean on
NHL All-Stars, Ohio State football share stage in Columbus
CBJ's Bobrovsky to miss All-Star game with lower-body injury
Malkin to miss all-star game with injury
Bieksa out indefinitely with broken hand
Sharks beat Kings 4-2 in final game before All-Star break
O'Reilly's tying goal helps Avalanche to SO win over Bruins
Lovejoy propels streaking Ducks past Flames 6-3
Jets win fifth straight, 4-0 over Columbus
Blackhawks beat short-handed Penguins in shootout 3-2
Sharks hold special Metallica night for game against Kings
Karlsson scores twice as Senators edge Leafs
Red Wings send LW Teemu Pulkkinen to AHL
Former all-star Ray Whitney retires
Predators send goalie Mazanec back to AHL for All-Star break