WILLIE OUT UNTIL AFTER OLYMPIC GAMES
Canuck defenceman Willie Mitchell will not be rejoining the team on their road trip until after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Associate coach Rick Bowness told reporters this morning that he has not yet started working out, and will need more time.
“Obviously, he’s not coming back now until after the Olympics,” said Bowness. He’s still in Vancouver and hasn’t started working out just yet, so it’s slow. At this point, you just let him take his time. Give him as much time as he needs, you give him a week of conditioning at the end of it, and he’s ready to go. We’re clearly hoping on right after the Olympics, but time will tell that one.”
Mitchell (4-8-12) has been out since January 16 where he suffered a hit from Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburg Penguins causing an upper body injury and concussion. He has missed ten games since then and will miss two more.
It is expected that Pavol Demitra will return to the team on Thursday after flying to Vancouver on Monday, but most likely will not play against the Florida Panthers.
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who has been out since December 29 with a sliced ankle tendon will begin skating after the Olympic break.
PANTHER TURNED CANUCK
Before travelling West and becoming a Canuck, Roberto Luongo spent five seasons with the Florida Panthers, the same team he will face on Thursday.
Practicing in his former home rink today may bring back memories, but since joining the Canucks, Luongo has flourished.
Over those five seasons Luongo played 317 games for the Panthers and recorded 108 wins (108-154-41). However with almost four seasons and 253 games with Vancouver, Luongo has exceeded that number recording 145 wins (145-80-24).
During his last season with Florida in 2005-2006, Luongo was 35-30-9 in 75 games and let in 213 goals. In his first season with Vancouver, Lui played 76 games winning 47 of them (47-22-6), and had a lower GA of 171.
Since leaving the Panthers Luongo has played in the 2006 Winter Olympics for Team Canada in Turin, Italy, where he won one out of the two games he played. He will once again be one of the goaltenders for Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver along with Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In 2008-2009, Luongo became team Captain for the Canucks in place of the retired Markus Naslund. He is the all-time Canuck goaltender leader in shutouts with 22, and reached his 50th career shutout this season against the Phoenix Coyotes on January 7.
Luongo (30-16-2) is currently fifth in the NHL for wins, ninth for GAA with 2.33, and tenth for saves with 1,274.
Thursday will be the first time Luongo will face the Panthers since 2007-2008 where he made 40 saves out of 43 shots but let one in by Nathan Horton in shootout that ended the game at 4-3.
REMEMBERING BRENDAN BURKE
The Vancouver Sun’s Brad Ziemer reported today that Stan Smyl, Mike Gillis’ senior advisor and former Canuck represented the team at Brendan Burke’s funeral on Tuesday, the son of former Canuck and current Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke.
Brendan Gilmore Burke passed away last Friday in a car accident in Indiana. What is a terrible loss for the Burke/Gilmore family also affected anyone who had the chance to know him. John Buccigross from ESPN describes the type of person that Brendan was.
“People liked Brendan ten seconds after meeting him,” said Buccigross. “He wasn’t a flamboyant or self-serving gallop. He was there for you. He connected quickly with people because he had a genuine interest in you. His kindness has no patience.”