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Press Round-Up: MAR.28.08

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
Luongo takes break for birth of baby: He plans to play goal in Minnesota tonight

Ben Kuzma said Luongo left for Florida to be with his wife but plans to play in Minny:

Roberto Luongo was always the man with a baby plan, according to a preseason interview with TSN.

The rush to return the Vancouver Canucks goaltender to South Florida on Thursday morning to witness his wife, Gina, give birth to a girl was actually planned long ago.

In an interview with the sports network last fall, Luongo was asked: "Would you miss a playoff game to be there for the baby's birth?"

Luongo laughed and said the plan had already been made to induce before the playoffs. Gina was due on Tuesday.

While Luongo's decision to be with his wife could have put his playing status in doubt for tonight's tough tussle with the Minnesota Wild -- the Canucks expect him back this morning -- his teammates knew the importance of becoming a father, especially for the first time.

"It's the biggest day of his life," said Canucks captain Markus Naslund, who once missed a game in Nashville to make it back to Vancouver in time to witness the birth of one of his three children.

In the 2002 playoffs, Brendan Morrison thought he would have to leave the Detroit series with wife Erin about to give birth. She held out until the Canucks were eliminated in six games by the Wings.

"It's a no-brainer and Roberto has to be there, for sure," said Morrison. "It's a pretty special time in his life to share that and it's a real bonding experience."

Added coach Alain Vigneault: "That's more important than any hockey game and we expect him to be there, and that's where he should be. In my mind it was an easy decision for him to make."
Mo's hoping this is not goodbye: Morrison will await his team's plan

Ben Kuzma said Morrison may have played his last game as a Canuck, although he hopes otherwise:

Brendan Morrison never wanted to play anywhere else, but a devastating knee injury and contract uncertainty may have jeopardized his career as a valuable Vancouver Canucks centre.

The Pitt Meadows native suffered a season-ending ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] tear of his right knee Wednesday in a second-period collision with Colorado Avalanche defenceman Ruslan Salei. And because Morrison faces surgery and another summer of rehabilitation as an unrestricted free agent, his market value likely won't be as high.

"I knew right away. A lot of people say with an ACL, you hear like a snap or pop. I didn't hear that or feel that. But as soon as I got hit, it buckled on me right away like a pins-and-needles sensation and I knew it wasn't right."

It's hard to imagine that after 513 franchise games, the last image of Morrison as a Canuck could be him hobbling off the ice instead of lifting his team to victory.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," Morrison said Thursday. "If it does happen to be this way, it won't be a very fun way to go out. Does it enter your mind? Sure it does. Hypothetically, it sucks.

"But again, I don't have any intentions of leaving. I don't know how it's going to play out here, but we'll address it at the end of the year and see what the team wants to do."

All Morrison wanted to do Wednesday was apply some offensive pressure, not end a trying 39-game season with just 25 points and a minus-3 rating.

A surgically repaired right wrist forced Morrison to miss 38 games this season -- it ended his NHL record 542-game iron-man streak -- and lingering soreness rendered him ineffective in faceoffs and releasing a wrist shot when he returned. Off the ice, the amiable 32-year-old was rarely without an ice bag taped to his wrist.

"I worked hard to get back for the end of this year because of my wrist and to have this happen at this point in the season is really disappointing," he added .
No time like the present for captain: Swede's game-breaking ability sure would be appreciated today

Ben Kuzma said Naslund still has some skill to offer and some experience to match:

There are new voices in the room, youthful exuberance and a superstar between the pipes.

As much as there may be a changing of the guard within the Vancouver Canucks, one member of the old guard is still captain and still capable of contributing where it counts most.

Markus Naslund had a hat trick against the Minnesota Wild here on Nov. 21 to fuel a 4-2 victory. It was a run of six goals in four games for the once-dominant Swedish winger on a line with countrymen Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

It was proof that Naslund's skills haven't diminished. But what of his spirit? It wouldn't be a stretch to say it has been zapped by a new coach, new system and new linemates in the tug-of-war between being sound defensively and productive offensively.

"I wouldn't say zapped, but it's been a transition -- there's no doubt about it," Naslund said Thursday. "The last two years have been different, but I think I'm lucky to be on a team with a goalie like Louie [Roberto Luongo]."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has issued a challenge to his veterans to be the difference in five remaining regular-season games. To end a three-game losing streak and solidify a playoff position, Naslund knows what is at stake tonight against the Wild. And he knows what role he must play -- star, not spectator.

"You can't expect the young guys to lead and they'll follow what the veterans do," he said. "It's crucial for us to find a way here and turn this thing around.

"I need to contribute offensively. I'm one of the guys who needs to score goals and create offence and I have to do a better job of that."

"It's difficult that way, because you're always going to get judged on the numbers you put up in that era," he said. "We had a totally different dynamic and played a totally different style of hockey then."

Naslund won't get credit for a defensive sequence Wednesday in which he came all the way back into the Canucks crease to sprawl and help thwart a Colorado scoring chance.

"He does a lot of things that don't come natural and we've needed him to be sound in his own end and not turn pucks over at the blueline," said Canucks general manager Dave Nonis.
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