Luongo pain free after Canucks practice

Roberto Luongo, returning from a groin injury that has cost him 23 games, still isn't 100 per cent even though he had a solid workout with his team, the Vancouver Canucks, on Monday.

Goaltender could return for Thursday's home game against Phoenix

Roberto Luongo admits he is fully healed from a groin injury but still isn't 100 per cent as far as his return to the Vancouver Canucks net.

Luongo, who missed 23 games with a strained left groin, had his first full workout with the team on Monday but is far from game shape.

"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, 29, said he is doubtful for Tuesday's game against New Jersey but could return for Thursday's visit by Phoenix.

"It's pain free. I wouldn't be on the ice if I wasn't," Luongo said, referring to the groin.

Luongo was injured in a Nov. 22 game at Pittsburgh on a relatively routine save on Penguins defenceman Philippe Boucher.

The Montreal native thought he was close to returning in early December, but was forced to shut it down after leaving practice early on Dec. 10 because of lingering pain and discomfort.

Luongo is 11-5-2 in 19 games this season and ranks in the top five with both a 2.17 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He also remains tied for second in the league with five shutouts, just one behind Columbus rookie Steve Mason.

Last week, Luongo was named a Western Conference reserve for the NHL's all-star game on Jan. 25 in Montreal.

He missed last year's game to be with his wife in Florida during a difficult pregnancy.

"I'd like to play at the all-star game. It would be a great opportunity, especially in my hometown," Luongo told Scott Oake of Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night. "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."

The 22-17-5 Canucks have a 9-11-3 record since Luongo was hurt, but remain just five points behind the Northwest Division-leading Calgary Flames, who have three games in hand.

Vancouver's cushion among the top eight teams in the West is down to five points.

Jason LaBarbera, acquired from Los Angeles in a Dec. 30 trade after regular backup Curtis Sanford hurt his groin, is expected to start Tuesday. He is 2-1-2 with a 2.72 GAA and .916 save-percentage since arriving.

Sanford, who returned Saturday to make 23 saves in a 4-2 loss to league-leading San Jose, is 7-7-0 with a 2.62 GAA and .906 save-percentage this season, but could be the odd-man out when Luongo does return to game action.

With files from the Canadian Press