SANFORD ON WAIVERS
The Vancouver Canucks placed goalie Curtis Sanford on waivers Wednesday morning as starting goaltender Roberto Luongo
prepares to return after missing 24 games with a groin injury.
“It was a very challenging decision for us, Curtis is not only really respected and liked by his teammates, but the whole coaching staff and management felt exactly the same way," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "Without sharing with you how we came to that decision, we had a decision to come to and I told Curtis this morning that we were putting him on waivers.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics [behind the decision]. Curtis is a good goaltender and a good person. If he gets picked up we’re going to wish him the best, if not he’s going to go to Manitoba. At this time we’re going to go with Jason [LaBarbera].”
Sanford, 29, played in 19 games this season, including 15 starts, posting a 7-8-0 record, 2.56 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. The Owen Sound native signed with the Canucks as a free agent in July 2007 and played in 16 games in the 2007-08 season.
“It’s tough, he was a really good friend and it’s really sad for me to see him go, we developed a great friendship," said Luongo. "Unfortunately this is part of the business and things like this happen once in a while and we’ve got to move on, but I wish him all the best. Hopefully he finds a team that he can contribute to.”
The Canucks acquired Jason LaBarbera from the LA Kings for a seventh round draft pick on December 30th, after injuries kept Sanford and Roberto Luongo
out of the lineup.
LaBarbera is 2-1-2 since joining the Canucks with a .907 save percentage and 3.07 GAA. The Burnaby, BC native was drafted by the NY Rangers' 3rd round choice, 66th overall, in 1998. He appeared in four games with the Rangers before joining the LA Kings in the 2005-06 season. LU READY FOR THURSDAY, TEAM REFOCUSES
Following this morning's practice Luongo told reporters that he is ready to go for Thursday's game against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes. This is good news for his team that has been struggling since his injury, and have lost five consecutive home games.
"I have no issues and I felt pretty good in practice as far as timing goes," said Luongo. "I’m ready to go for tomorrow.
“[The most difficult part has been] being away from the game, being away from my teammates and just being part of the daily routine of being around the guys and practicing. That’s tough for me, especially that I like to be on the ice a lot and watching the game on TV is just not as fun as playing.”
Luongo has never had a sidelining injury like this in his career and looks forward to helping the Canucks get back on track, but realistically acknowledges that it takes a team effort to win games.
“We win as a team and I’m not going to come in here and win by myself,” said Luongo. “We need 20 guys to play as a team and play well. That’s the way we’ve always won, and that’s the way it’s going to be here on out.
“We know that we’re capable of playing well. Teams go through ups and downs throughout the season and unfortunately we know we’ve lost three in a row here. But we’ve got some important games coming up here before the break and it’s important for us to really bear down and get some wins.”
Vigneault and his coaching staff continue to challenge the team to regain the focus they had to start the season.
"Right now I think I have the right to challenge players on this team, I have a right to challenge this group," said Vigneault. "I think we’re a very good team. I think all those things we were saying about ourselves and that we were hearing awhile back are still right there, it’s just a matter of a little bit more from each individual on this team and we’re going to back on the right track.”
After being demoted to the fourth line to start last night’s game, Pavol Demitra responded by showing everyone what he is capable of, scoring Vancouver’s second goal in the 5-3 loss to New Jersey to keep the team in the game.
“The way [Demitra] played last night, he showed obviously that he’s got more to give," said Vigneault. "I thought that his game last night he was hungrier for pucks, he was more competitive and I'm hoping that we’re going to get more of that. Obviously we need him to play up to his level. We need him to have competitiveness on the ice all the time and when he does that he’s a very useful player to our team."
The players are excited to have Luongo back from injury, but recognize their success can not be dependent on one player.
“Louie is obviously a big, big part of our team, we’re happy that he’s hopefully close to come back," said Mattias Ohlund. "But I think our goaltending has been fine, we just as a team haven’t played good enough. Regardless of who’s in net, if Louie comes back soon that’s great but we still have to find a way to improve our play on the ice."