All eyes on Luongo shutout streak in Vancouver
Canucks goaltender looks to improve upon poor record against Avalanche
Streak? Which streak?
The Vancouver Canucks have a three-game win streak on the line Wednesday at 7 p.m. PT when they meet rival Colorado for the first time this season.
The visiting Avalanche, meanwhile, have a streak of six wins against the Canucks.
But the streak that will concern many of the 18,000-plus fans at General Motors Place belongs to Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.
The Montreal native has blanked Minnesota, Phoenix and Nashville in the team's last three starts, last surrendering a goal to Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg with 68 seconds left in the second period on Nov. 2.
With a current shutout streak of 201 minutes, eight seconds, Luongo can eclipse his own team record of 210:34 if he holds Colorado off the score sheet until the 11:05 mark of the first period.
"You don't want to jinx him, eh," Vancouver winger Alex Burrows told reporters Tuesday. "So you don't really want to talk about it."
Luongo certainly didn't want to broach the subject but had little choice with a horde of media surrounding his stall in the Canucks' dressing room.
"I had a three-game shutout streak last year but we missed the playoffs," he said, "so it really didn't mean much. At the end of the day you want to be in the playoffs, and getting the two points is much more important than a shutout."
Fourth among active goalies with 43 career shutouts, Luongo has had an outstanding start to his third season in Vancouver: nine wins, five shutouts, a 2.34 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
But the 29-year-old netminder is quick to point out the Canucks' strong start (9-6-0) and slight improvement in goals per game has been instrumental in his personal success.
"It's nice, [not having] to always be on the edge trying to preserve a one-goal lead," Luongo told CBCSports.ca during a conference call Monday. "We've been able to score obviously more goals than last year [3.13 per game over 2.52]."
Veteran defenceman Willie Mitchell cautioned the shutout streak can't be the focus of his Vancouver teammates.
"Hopefully, it doesn't cause us to change our style of play or sit back a little more because we're maybe trying to keep it going," said Mitchell, who leads all Canucks defencemen with a plus-8 rating.
It should be noted Luongo hasn't fared well against the Avalanche in his career, going 0-5-1 with a 4.03 GAA in his last six starts and 5-13-2, 3.24 overall. His lone shutout versus Colorado came on March 27, 2007, in Denver.
But Luongo and company will catch a break Wednesday with Colorado captain Joe Sakic out of the lineup with a back injury. Tied for the team lead in assists with 10, the Burnaby, B.C., native is one point behind Avalanche scoring leaders Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk (13 points).
The latter has enjoyed the most success in his career when facing the Canucks, scoring 33 goals and 52 points in 55 games.
Last in the Northwest, Colorado (6-8-0) is coming off a 1-0 victory over Nashville on Saturday as Peter Budaj stopped 26 shots for his first shutout of the season to help the Avalanche snap a five-game losing streak.
Luongo, meanwhile, turned away 29 Minnesota shots in a 2-0 triumph over the visiting Wild on Saturday night after making a combined 52 saves against Phoenix and Nashville.
Vancouver will attempt to reclaim top spot in the division after the Calgary Flames jumped ahead following Tuesday's 4-3 win over Toronto, which visits the Canucks on Saturday (4 p.m. PT, CBC, CBCSports.ca). Calgary has 19 points followed by Vancouver (18) and Minnesota (17).
Winger Jannik Hansen is expected to return to the Vancouver lineup Wednesday after missing four games with a groin strain. He'll likely be reunited with regular linemates Ryan Kesler and Burrows.