Luongo-less days nearing an end for Canucks?
Two teams soldiering on without their superstar goaltenders will cross paths when the New Jersey Devils visit the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET).
The contest is one of three on the night involving Canadian-based clubs in the Western Conference. All three Canadian teams in the Eastern Conference are also in action.
Vancouver is at least starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as Roberto Luongo — the team's captain and only all-star — appears to be on the verge of returning from a 23-game absence caused by a groin injury.
Luongo took a big step toward that goal on Monday when he participated in his first full practice with his teammates. The big netminder reported afterwards that he's fully healed, but needs more time to get back in game form.
"We're full go right now, I did everything in practice, I didn't hold anything back," said Luongo, who also skated with a handful of teammates Sunday.
"One full practice after not playing for several weeks, I'm not sure I'm ready to play. It's just a matter of the way things go in practice, the way I feel and make sure I'm at the level I need to be at to help the team."
Luongo said he was doubtful for Tuesday's game against the Devils, but declared himself day-to-day, raising the possibility he could be in net for Thursday night's home game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
That moment can't come soon enough for Vancouver (22-17-5), which is just 9-11-3 without its best player.
The Canucks still sit in fifth place in the Western Conference, but have fallen five points behind the Calgary Flames for top spot in the Northwest Division after dropping the first two games of their current five-game homestand.
Vancouver allowed a combined 10 goals in those losses, including four by Curtis Sanford in Saturday's 4-2 defeat to the San Jose Sharks. Mats Sundin scored his first goal in his third game since signing with the Canucks, who were outshot 10-2 in the final period.
Jason LaBarbera, who coughed up six goals in Friday's 6-4 setback to the lowly St. Louis Blues, is expected to start against New Jersey on Tuesday night.
The Devils have played surprisingly well without Martin Brodeur in goal. The winner of four of the last five Vezina trophies is recovering from elbow surgery and hasn't played since Nov. 1.
But New Jersey (24-15-3) has gone a solid 18-13-1 in the absence of its franchise player. Scott Clemmensen is 15-9-1 with a 2.38 goals-against average while receiving the bulk of the playing time in net, while forwards Zach Parise and Patrik Elias are both averaging better than a point a game and rank in the top 10 in the NHL in scoring.
The Devils are coming off a 4-3 loss at Anaheim on Sunday to drop to 1-1 on their six-game road trip.
"We didn't play smart hockey," coach Brent Sutter said. "We weren't dumping the puck smart."
Edmonton Oilers at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET)
Tied for last in the Northwest with the Minnesota Wild, Edmonton (20-18-3) faces a difficult task against Washington (27-13-3), which is running away with the Southeast.
The Capitals are 18-2-1 on home ice this season, and have beaten the Oilers six straight times at the Verizon Centre.
Edmonton has scored two goals or fewer in three straight games, but beat St. Louis 2-1 on Sunday night for its only win in that span.
Oilers scoring leader Ales Hemsky has missed seven straight games because of post-concussion symptoms and is listed as day-to-day.
St. Louis Blues at Calgary Flames (9:30 p.m. ET)
One of the hottest clubs in hockey, Calgary (25-12-4) will be looking for its third win in a row and 10th in its last 12 games.
The Flames are also seeking their sixth straight home win over St. Louis (16-22-5), and are 14-1-1 overall in their last 16 matchups with the Blues.
Centre Daymond Langkow is on fire for Calgary, riding a four-game goal-scoring streak and seven-game point streak. He had a season-high three points — one goal, two assists — in Thursday's 5-2 home victory over the New York Islanders.
The Blues are in the midst of a miserable stretch of 11 losses in 15 games. St. Louis seemed to be snapping out of its funk last week when it totalled 11 goals in consecutive wins over Columbus and at Vancouver, but that momentum ended Sunday with a 2-1 loss at Edmonton.
With files from the Associated Press