The Vancouver Canucks put veteran goaltender Curtis Sanford on waivers Wednesday, heralding the return of No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo from a groin injury.
With Luongo shelved since Nov. 23, Sanford split the netminding duties with newcomer Jason LaBarbera, who has played well enough to serve as Luongo's backup.
LaBarbera was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 30, when Sanford tweaked a groin during a game-day skate.
LaBarbera has posted a 3.07 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage with Vancouver.
But Luongo declared himself fit to resume playing Thursday, when the Canucks host the Phoenix Coyotes, leaving Sanford as the odd man out.
"It was a very challenging decision for us," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters Wednesday. "Curtis is not only really respected and liked by his teammates, but the whole coaching staff and management."
Should Sanford clear waivers, he will sent to the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.
The Canucks have lost five of their last six games, with Sanford on the losing end of recent 4-2 and 5-3 decisions to the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils, respectively.
The 29-year-old is 7-8-0 with a 2.62 GAA and .906 save percentage in 19 games, including 15 starts.
Most of those numbers were actually better than those Sanford had in 2007-08, his first season in Vancouver, when he went 4-3-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .898 save percentage in 16 appearances.
'I'm ready to go'
The Canucks (22-18-5) went 9-12-3 without Luongo, who has claimed to be pain-free since rejoining the team for full practices on Monday.
"I have no issues and I felt pretty good in practice as far as timing," he said. "I m ready to go."
Luongo was selected as a reserve for the Western Conference for the NHL's all-star game at the Bell Centre on Jan. 25 (CBC, 6 p.m. ET).
"I'd like to play at the all-star game. It would be a great opportunity, especially in my hometown," the Montreal native told Scott Oake of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada last Saturday.
"But my main focus is with the Vancouver Canucks and making sure I'm 100 per cent and here [in the lineup] for the rest of the season."