As good as the Vancouver Canucks have been offensively, Roberto Luongo has been equally good at the other end of the ice. The Canucks are on top of the overall NHL standings, and Luongo is a big reason why.
Vancouver won its first three games after the All-Star break, and Luongo excelled in his two starts, shutting out Phoenix 6-0 on the road on Wednesday and stopping 42 of 45 shots against Chicago two nights later in a 4-3 win.
Overall, Luongo has won his last four starts, and he's 14-0-5 in his last 19 decisions. His 2.24 goals-against average and .926 save percentage would both be career bests – and improvements on his career marks of 2.55 and .917. He's giving the Canucks the kind of goaltending they'll need if they hope to make a long run this spring.
Five up — Five players who've been hot:
Jonathan Toews -- "Captain Serious" is doing his best to make sure Chicago has a chance to defend its Stanley Cup this spring. Toews has 2 goals and 5 points in the Hawks' first two games after the break and has 9 points in Chicago's last five.
Jonathan Quick – L.A.'s No. 1 goalie has been on a roll. Saturday's 4-3 shootout win in Calgary was his fifth in a row, and he's allowed just nine goals in that span.
Teddy Purcell – Purcell often gets lost on a Tampa Bay team that has stars like Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, but he’s given the Lightning a big boost. Purcell has 3 goals and 9 points in his last five games, including 3 goals last week.
Mikael Samuelsson – After a dreadful first half, Samuelsson is playing more like the player who had a career-high 30 goals last season. He had 2 points in each of the Canucks' three wins last week.
Johan Franzen -- "The Mule" had the biggest night of any player this season when he scored five times in Detroit's 7-5 win at Ottawa on Wednesday. He became just the third Red Wing in history to score five or more times in a game.
Five down — Five players who are struggling:
Manny Malhotra -- Malhotra had 17 points in 36 games in the 2010 portion of the schedule -- pretty good production for a third-line center. But he's gone without a point in all 17 games in the new year, despite averaging more than 16 minutes of ice time a night.
Josh Bailey -- The No. 9 pick in the 2008 Entry Draft had 3 goals in five games after the New York Islanders recalled him following a month in the minors. But he's gone cold again, with no goals since Dec. 29 and no points in New York's last seven games.
Dustin Byfuglien -- Byfuglien was the talk of the NHL after putting up 41 points for Atlanta in the Thrashers' first 42 games. But he's gone without a point in 13 games since Jan. 2, a major reason the Thrashers' once-secure hold on a playoff berth has disappeared.
Rene Bourque – He's been excellent in shootouts (5-for-8), but the Calgary Flames need Bourque to score during regulation time. He’s gone eight games without a point, even though the Flames have been one of the NHL's hottest teams.
Kari Lehtonen – It was a tough week for Dallas' No.1 goalie. He lost all three of his appearances while allowing 10 goals on 90 shots. He’s 1-4-0 in his last five appearances, allowing 18 goals.
Injuries, news and notes -- Evgeni Malkin's return from a left knee injury didn't last long. He came back Friday after missing five games, only to tear two ligaments in his right knee as the result of a collision early in the second period. He's out indefinitely.
On the other end of the spectrum, Peter Forsberg is coming back. Forsberg signed a contract with Colorado on Sunday and is expected to play Monday at Phoenix. He hasn’t played in the NHL for three years due to foot problems.
Out — Pittsburgh also lost center Mark Letestu for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury sustained at Tuesday's morning skate. Another forward, Arron Asham, missed the Pens' last two games with an upper-body injury. … Martin Brodeur left New Jersey's game at Montreal on Sunday with a bruised knee. …. Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro's litany of injuries continues. DiPietro will miss at least 4-6 weeks with facial fractures and a swollen knee after a fight with Pittsburgh goaltender Brent Johnson on Wednesday. Forward Blake Comeau sustained a concussion in the same game and is out indefinitely. … Dallas forward Adam Burish went on IR on Friday with an orbital bone injury, Ray Sawada is out with a shoulder injury and Krys Barch sat out Saturday with a scratched cornea. All
three were hurt on Thursday. … Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller sat out Saturday because of what the team called "headaches and light-headedness." He's day-to-day. … Rangers captain Chris Drury didn't make the team's trip to Montreal on Saturday due to a knee injury that's been bothering him for a while. He had the knee drained, and there's no timetable for his return. The Rangers also lost forward Ruslan Fedotenko for another three weeks or so after he underwent an emergency appendectomy. … Carolina will be without forward Jussi Jokinen for another week or so due to a lower-body injury sustained on Tuesday. … Toronto forward Mike Brown left Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury that's expected to keep him out for at least another week. … Florida will be without forward Evgeny Dadanov for a month due to a broken finger sustained on Wednesday. … St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak sat out games Friday and Sunday with an upper-body injury. … Washington defenseman Mike Green was hit in the face by a shot on Sunday and left with a cut and a headache. He’s day-to-day.
Returning -- The Rangers got some reinforcements after the break. Forward Ryan Callahan (broken hand) and defenseman Dan Girardi (ribs) returned Tuesday, while center Eric Christensen (knee) came back on Saturday. … Atlanta reactivated goaltender Chris Mason after he missed nearly three weeks with a knee injury. … St. Louis center Andy McDonald returned Friday after missing 24 games with a concussion. … Edmonton forward Jordan Eberle also returned Friday after missing nearly a month with an ankle injury and undergoing an appendectomy. … Islanders defenseman Milan Jurcina returned Saturday after missing seven games with an upper-body injury. … Ottawa center Jason Spezza was in the lineup on Saturday for the first time since going down with a shoulder injury on Dec. 26. … Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome returned from a sprained knee on Friday after missing eight games. … Nashville reactivated forward Steve Sullivan on Saturday; he had been out since Dec. 23 with a groin injury.
Still out — Nashville center Matthew Lombardi is still experiencing symptoms from the concussion he sustained on Oct. 13, though he has felt well enough to start some minor workouts. … Washington's Alexander Semin (groin) has missed four weeks and 13 games; the Caps now hope he can return this week. The Caps hope to get defenseman Tom Poti (lower body) back in the lineup by the middle of the month. … Bruins center Marc Savard (concussion) returned to Boston on Thursday to be evaluated by the team's medical personnel. There's no word when he might be able to return. … Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler had back surgery last week and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season, though he might be able to return if the Canucks go deep into the playoffs. The Canucks also sent defenseman Sami Salo to their AHL farm team in Manitoba for conditioning as he works to recover from an Achilles injury last summer. He has not played at all this season. … Detroit center Mike Modano reportedly is ahead of schedule as he
recovers from a cut tendon in his wrist. He may be back at the end of February. The Wings hope to have center Pavel Datsyuk (broken hand) back for Monday's game. …
The week ahead — It's a hectic week for a number of teams, with 11 clubs scheduled to play four games -- and four of those slated to play all four on the road.
Games to watch:
New York Rangers at Detroit (Feb. 7) -- Versus will be on hand at Joe Louis Arena to see if the Rangers can win there for the first time in the 21st century. New York has lost five in a row in Detroit since its last win on Jan. 30, 1999.
Montreal at Boston (Feb. 9) -- Versus will also be at the TD Garden to see if the Canadiens can make up any ground on their longtime rivals in the Northeast Division.
Los Angeles at Pittsburgh (Feb. 10) -- The Kings continue their marathon 10-game trip as they pay their first visit to the new Consol Energy Center and make only their third trip to Pittsburgh since 2003.
Boston at Detroit (Feb. 13) -- NBC's Game of the Week will air the rematch as the Bruins and Wings play the back end of a home-and-home series.
Pittsburgh at New York Rangers (Feb. 13) -- The Penguins, who've played well despite the injury to Sidney Crosby, will try for their second win at Madison Square Garden in less than two weeks.
Tough week ahead:
Chicago Blackhawks -- The Hawks have a lot tougher week than they did in the first half of their six-game trip. This one features stops in Calgary and Edmonton before a flight to the Southwest for games at Dallas and Phoenix.
Colorado Avalanche -- The Avs spent almost all of the last five weeks at home, so it's catch-up time. They start their week with a visit to Phoenix, then go to Minnesota and Columbus before finishing in Nashville.
San Jose -- The Sharks stay in the East this week with a grueling schedule that calls for stops in Washington, Pittsburgh and New Jersey before they finish in Florida.
Easy week ahead:
Florida Panthers -- After a six-game trip, the Panthers start a five-game homestand with visits from Buffalo, St. Louis and San Jose.
Philadelphia Flyers -- The Flyers are one of the few teams that has just two games this week -- and both are at home. Carolina and Los Angeles come to the Wells Fargo Center during a light week.
Washington Capitals -- The Caps have a chance to get some work in -- their week includes only two games, rare visits from San Jose and Los Angeles.
Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Bolts' 12-game homestand continues -- but they'll have a lot of time for practice this week, with only visits from Buffalo and Carolina on the schedule.