NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, January 13th (All times eastern)
New Jersey Devils (24-15-3) at Vancouver Canucks (22-17-5), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - As if getting Mats Sundin wasn't enough, the Canucks are also close to getting their franchise netminder back. With Roberto Luongo inching closer to a return, Vancouver hosts the New Jersey Devils tonight at GM Place.
Luongo hasn't played since he suffered a strained left groin on November 22 versus Pittsburgh. In 23 games since, the Canucks are just 9-11-3 but only trail the first-place Calgary Flames by five points in the Northwest Division.
Luongo practiced on Monday and declared himself 100 percent healthy, though he likely won't play tonight as he needs to work himself back into game shape.
Instead, tonight will continue the battle for the backup goaltending role. Curtis Sanford is 7-7-0 with a 2.62 goals against average this year, but he also battled a groin injury that forced the Canucks to acquire Jason LaBarbera from the Los Angeles Kings. In five outings with Vancouver, LaBarbera is 2-1-2 with a 2.72 GAA.
Sanford, meanwhile, returned to action on Saturday and made 23 saves in a 4-2 loss to San Jose. It was Sanford's first appearance since he suffered his injury versus Philadelphia on December 30, the same day the Canucks acquired LaBarbera.
Sundin recorded a goal for Vancouver, his first point in three games since coming back to the league. The 37-year-old, who had spent the previous 13 seasons with Toronto and left as the franchise's career scoring leader, signed a one-year deal with the Canucks on December 18 after contemplating retirement in the offseason.
Daniel Sedin also tallied for the Canucks, who have lost two in a row and four of five. Vancouver has also lost four straight at home and are 11-8-2 at GM Place this year. Tonight marks the third test of a so-far-winless five-game homestand for Vancouver.
While Vancouver is close to getting its No. 1 netminder back, the Devils continue life without Martin Brodeur, who is on injured reserve due to a left elbow/biceps injury and isn't expected to return until late in the season.
Scott Clemmensen has handled most netminder action since Brodeur's injury, but he allowed four goals on 34 shots in a 4-3 loss to Anaheim on Sunday to drop his third straight start.
Bobby Holik, David Clarkson and Zach Parise scored for the Devils, who have dropped three of their last four overall.
New Jersey, which is four points back of first-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division, has split the first two games of a season-long six-game road trip. The Devils are 11-7-2 on the road this season.
Following tonight's contest, New Jersey heads back east to take on Columbus on Friday. They could be joined by Brendan Shanahan, who agreed last Saturday to join the Devils after failing to sign with a team this past offseason. It will mark Shanahan's 22nd NHL season, but it is unknown when he will see game action with the Devils.
Vancouver has won five of six and eight of its last 11 versus New Jersey and has won three straight as the host in the series. The Devils are just 3-13 with a tie in their last 17 in Vancouver.
01/13 10:49:39 ET