After returning from injury to easily outplay one of the Eastern Conference's top goaltenders, Roberto Luongo will be asked to do the same against the Vancouver Canucks' longtime nemesis from the West.
Coming off another shutout win at home, Luongo and the Canucks meet Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars on Thursday night in their first game since last season's West quarterfinal.
Vancouver (18-12-4) needed seven games to beat Dallas (19-11-4) in the opening round of the postseason. Luongo was 4-3 with a 1.41 goals-against average in that series, including a 72-save effort in the Canucks' four-overtime, 5-4 win in Game 1. Though the Stars were ousted in the first round for the third straight season, Turco had better numbers as he registered a 1.30 GAA and three shutouts - two coming in Vancouver.
In 15 career regular-season starts against the Canucks, Turco is 12-2-1 with a 1.52 GAA, but his numbers in Vancouver are even better - he's won seven straight at GM Place and is 8-1-0 there with a 1.11 GAA with two shutouts.
Turco will try to lead the Stars to their fifth straight win overall as well as their fifth in a row on the road. But they'll need to solve Luongo, who has been stellar recently at home. After missing three games with a rib injury, Luongo stopped 32 shots to outduel the Devils' Martin Brodeur in the Canucks' 5-0 rout of New Jersey on Tuesday.
Luongo, the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy won last season by Brodeur, stopped Travis Zajac on a breakaway 12 seconds into the game en route to his fourth shutout in his last five home starts.
"Having Roberto come back like this and setting the tone right off the bat by saving the breakaway, I think he set the pace and got us going," said Vancouver's Markus Naslund, who scored twice to snap a nine-game drought.
From Oct. 5-Nov. 1, Luongo was 1-6-0 with a 3.36 GAA in Vancouver. In nine home starts since, he's 7-0-2 with a 0.54 GAA with five shutouts. He also set a franchise record with a shutout streak of 210 minutes, 34 seconds.
During the 2006-07 regular season, Luongo was 2-1-1 with a 1.46 GAA against the Stars, with both wins coming at home.
Dallas continued its hot streak with a 2-1 shootout win over Edmonton on Tuesday. Turco finished with 33 saves, Jeff Halpern scored in regulation and Sergei Zubov added the only shootout tally.
"That's what the shootout is all about, it's mano a mano," Turco said.
Mike Modano, the all-time leading scorer among U.S.-born players, has a seven-game regular-season point streak against Vancouver, posting five goals and five assists. However, he managed just one goal and one assist in last season's playoff series versus the Canucks.
Modano enters this game with a goal and three assists during a four-game point streak. His 22 points this season are fourth on the Stars.