Getting better all the time
Ben Kuzma said that the years Roberto Luongo
has been in the NHL, there were always hopes that Luongo would become an elite goaltender.
“Add a strong resolve to not allow external forces to affect his performance -- especially in the pressure-cooker world of hockey-mad Vancouver -- and it's not surprising that the workhorse Canucks stopper is now mentioned in the same breath as Martin Brodeur,” said Kuzma.
"I've learned to be that way," Luongo said following practice Monday. "I wouldn't say I was like that in my first few years. Over the last two or three, I'm really focused more on just going out there and playing and not worrying about the outside stuff -- kind of like the beginning of the season when you guys [media] were on me about my numbers and I didn't care."
“After a slow start, it was Luongo's club-record three-consecutive shutouts last month and a franchise-best 212:02 of goal-free play that silenced the critics. Not that Luongo gave it much thought,” Kuzma said.
"It's real important because that stuff with drive you crazy if you think about it too much," added Luongo. "You've just got to let it roll off your back. I say to myself, over the course of the season the numbers will be where they're supposed to be at the end."
“Luongo, who has 13 wins this season, is ranked fourth in shutouts (four) and is fifth in goals-against average (2.12) and save percentage (.925). Brodeur's second in wins (16) and sixth in shutouts (two),” said Kuzma.
“While technical styles differ in the Montreal natives, Luongo credits his idol with providing the platform to be ready for every shot, whether in practice or a game.”
"The way he approaches the game and handles himself around it is something I really look up to," said Luongo, who has a 4-13-0 career record against the Devils with a .907 saves percentage. "He's one of the best of all time and he reads the play real well -- that's the main thing."
“Brodeur is looking forward to tonight's showdown, but Luongo's ability to excel in a Canadian market is not lost on the future Hall of Fame goalie. It's something he doesn't have to worry about in New Jersey, where hockey fights for coverage with the NFL and NBA,” Kuzma said.
"I was lucky," said Brodeur, who is 6-8-0 against the Canucks. "I didn't feel that extra pressure that a guy in Vancouver or Montreal or Toronto is feeling every single day. Sometimes, that's a big burden."
Top two goalies know how to read the play
Ben Kuzma said Roberto Luongo
and Martin Brodeur are two goalies to talk about because of their skills and ability to perform during game time.
“As much as Luongo and Brodeur have varying styles, a tireless work ethic links the former Olympic teammates and contenders for the Hart and Vezina trophies. All this doesn't surprise Clark,” Kuzma said.
"The similarity is their ability to read [the play]," said Clark. "They are arguably two of the best in the game. It goes beyond studying the tendencies of other players, it's being able to read body and stick orientation. And their commitment to preparation is impeccable."
“Translation: These guys are really good,” said Kuzma.
“While the Montreal natives are products of the Quebec goalie factory and employ different means of stopping the puck -- Luongo stands his ground more while Brodeur will reach and stretch -- they're actually quite alike.”
"They're both reactors," added Clark. "People get confused about the butterfly [style] a bit. You always know a reactor when he holds his feet until after the shot is taken and then he goes and gets the puck.
Salo uncaged and ready to unleash
Jim Jamieson said Sami Salo
is no longer using the cage, but is back to the visor, which means many people are expecting much more from him.
“After missing eight games from a shattered nose and crushed sinus, Salo has now been back 12 games. He feels he's getting back to where he wants to be in terms of fitness and timing, but still needs to be putting up some offensive numbers,” said Jamieson.
"I felt a lot better," said Salo, who switched to the visor for Saturday's 2-1 shootout loss in Edmonton. "It's not as claustrophobic as with the cage on. I felt fine battling and skating, but with the offensive part there's a lot to do."
“Salo, who's had point totals of 37, 33, 26 and 30 since joining Vancouver in the 2002-03 season, has just one assist in 16 games this season,” Jamieson said.
“In fairness, the facial injury was the second major injury Salo suffered this season. He missed the first nine games of the regular season and all of the preseason after fracturing his left wrist in training camp.”
Jamieson said, “Head coach Alain Vigneault said he put Salo in a new defence pairing, with Mattias Ohlund, for the Edmonton game to move him away from the shutdown role he was playing with Willie Mitchell.”
"The reason [for the change] is we need to get more offence out of him," said Vigneault. "When we sat down at the beginning of the year, we said Sami has the potential to get 15 goals if he's healthy."
"Sami's got the same type of shot except that Souray will shoot it from everywhere and he doesn't care if he hits somebody in the head, where Sami doesn't want to hurt anybody," said Vigneault. "We're trying to work on Sami to get through that and shoot the puck. If somebody wants to stand in front -- tough luck.
"Sami's got one of the best shots in the league. That shot will get him goals and it will get him rebounds that will get him assists."
Morrison casts himself disappointed
Jim Jamieson said Brendan Morrison hasn’t been on the injury list since he was playing NCAA hockey, but now he will constantly exercise to keep up with the team.
"It would have to be in college in my junior year," said the Vancouver Canucks centre, who spoke to the media on Monday for the first time following surgery last Thursday.
"I missed two games with a broken bone in my hand and played in a cast for three months."
“There was no such easy fix for Morrison's injury this time, as the 32-year-old will languish six weeks in a cast with a still-unspecified term of rehab to follow before he can get back into the lineup. Morrison said he hopes that will be two or three weeks before the mid-April playoffs begin,” Jamieson said.
“The only thing certain is that the injury makes Morrison virtually untouchable at the Feb. 26 trade deadline, but likely makes his future with the Canucks more cloudy.”
“The Pitt Meadows native is in the third and final year of a contract that pays him $3.2 million a season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1,” said Jamieson.
“The wrist injury -- which Morrison suffered in the preseason and which he has attempted to play through -- is the first that has caused him to miss games since he was traded to Vancouver from New Jersey late in the 1999-2000 season, but it is his third major injury in three years.”
Jamieson said, “Last summer, Morrison had surgery for a sports hernia. The summer before, it was to repair a torn hip labrum.”
"No matter what, it's frustrating," said Morrison when asked about his contract situation. "It's something I hadn't been through during a season. It's more difficult now when you see guys out there battling every night and you can't do anything about it. Sure, I'm a little bit frustrated being a contract year, but at the end of the day I had no other option."
"The ironman streak had nothing to do with it," said Morrison, who had 8-12-20 in 30 games.
"If we had determined in training camp that I needed surgery, I would have had it done. When I hurt it we decided there was chance it could get better, but it was getting worse.
"I thought it was getting to the point where I was a liability on the ice, especially in our zone. I couldn't push or lean on guys or engage in any type of battle with guys. I knew then it was time to get something done."
THE VANCOUVER SUN
Morrison aiming to be back ‘a few weeks before playoffs’
Brad Ziemer said Brendan Morrison was once Ironman, but not he has become an average joe.
“Four days after surgery to repair an injured right wrist, the Vancouver Canuck centre was coming to grips Monday with what will be a long road back,” said Ziemer.
“Morrison said he will spend six weeks in a cast and then will likely require several weeks of rehab work before returning to the lineup."My goal here is to be back hopefully a few weeks before the playoffs," he said.
Ziemer said, “Right now, Morrison is struggling with some of life's more mundane tasks.”
"Wrapping Christmas presents is tough," Morrison said with a smile.
"Even peeling a Mandarin orange is tough. I have to get my kids to help me."
“Morrison is currently wearing a cast that stretches well above his elbow. If all goes well, that cast will be replaced by a smaller one that he will also wear for three weeks,” said Ziemer.
“His surgery was performed Thursday by Vancouver-based hand and wrist specialist Dr. Peter Gropper. Morrison said a sheath that tendons slide through had become torn and that in turn was causing one of his wrist tendons to slip out.”
"A lot of times in our zone I was hindering our team more than helping," he said. "Offensively, I still felt I could shoot the puck, but any type of battle, I couldn't do it."
Ziemer said, “The surgery ended Morrison's NHL-leading ironman streak at 542 games.”
"To be honest with you, the ironman streak had nothing to do with it," he said. "If it had been determined right in training camp that I needed surgery, then it wouldn't have been an issue. I would have had it done."