Luongo injury creates opportunity for Sanford
Canucks put win streak on line Monday against undefeated-in-5 Red Wings
Now, before you ask, Curtis Sanford does not carry a shutout streak rivalling that of teammate Roberto Luongo, who set a Vancouver Canucks record of 242 minutes 36 seconds earlier this month.
In fact, Sanford's four career shutouts in limited NHL duty fall one shy of Luongo's total for 19 appearances this season.
But the latter probably won't be tending goal for the Canucks anytime soon after exiting Saturday's 3-1 win over Pittsburgh less than five minutes after the opening faceoff with a suspected groin problem.
Luongo's injury came a few seconds after he reacted to a deflection that went wide. The 29-year-old Montreal native was helped off the ice, not putting any pressure on his left leg.
The Canucks reportedly will be without Luongo four to five weeks, so expect Sanford to start against the visiting Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m. PT).
Sanford is no slouch, having stopped 17 of 18 shots Saturday to lower his goals-against average to 2.46 and raise his save percentage to .910 in four outings this season.
Career-wise, the second-year Canuck has a 32-20-5 mark in 93 games with a 2.78 GAA and .901 save percentage.
"He's the biggest part of our team," said Sanford of Luongo, who has appeared in 65 games in each of his previous five seasons. "But we're going to have to move past that and we're going to have to play some games without him in there."
Should Sanford get the start Monday, it would be his first appearance as a member of the Canucks against the Central Division-leading Red Wings, who have won five straight.
Backing him up would be Cory Schneider, who was recalled Sunday from Manitoba of the American Hockey League, where the 22-year-old is 10-1 for the Moose and tops all goaltenders in GAA (1.37) and save percentage (.945).
"You try to prepare yourself for [the call] and be ready for it whenever it does come, because it's usually unexpected," Schneider told reporters. "You never want to see anybody get hurt … but this is how opportunities are created."
Babcock 'ecstatic' with Wings' record
Vancouver, which has won three in a row to extend its lead atop the Northwest to five points over Minnesota, no doubt would like to create as many scoring opportunities against a Detroit outfit that has yet to lose in regulation in November (7-0-1).
Centre Jiri Hudler notched the winning goal in a 5-2 win at Calgary on Saturday night to give the Red Wings victories in the first two games of a three-game road trip.
"I'm ecstatic with our record," head coach Mike Babcock told Hockey Night in Canada. "Guys have found a way on most night to really bring it and that's a positive. The big thing is we're finding ways to win and different people are finding ways to contribute."
Babcock will be looking for more of the same Monday, considering injured forwards Tomas Holmstrom (back spasms) and Dan Cleary (scratched eye) will be out of the lineup for the third and seventh straight game, respectively.
Ty Conklin turned aside 31 of 33 Flames shots, but is expected to give way to Chris Osgood at General Motors Place.
Osgood, who has been rotating starts with Conklin, has prevailed in his last three visits to Vancouver and is 16-4-1 with four ties and a 2.45 GAA in 27 career games versus the Canucks.
Trio riding 6-game points streak
The biggest challenge for Osgood could be trying to deny Vancouver's top forward line of first-year Canuck Pavol Demitra between the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik.
The three have combined for nine goals and 18 points over the last five games, led by Demitra, who has amassed 10 points (six goals, four assists) during a six-game points streak.
"It's a great feeling playing with guys like [the Sedins]," Demitra said. "As a team, we didn't really give [Pittsburgh] anything [on Saturday], not even on their power play. Our [penalty] killers were playing great."
Good thing as Detroit arrives with the NHL's best power-play unit, which is succeeding at a 32.9 per cent rate.