Roberto Luongo had trouble adjusting early during his first season with the Vancouver Canucks. With a month left in the regular season, he's now on the verge of a franchise record.
If Luongo gets the start Thursday night, he'll try to break the Canucks' single-season record for wins by a goaltender when Vancouver begins a three-game road trip against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Luongo made 16 saves Tuesday to lead Vancouver (39-22-5) to a 5-1 rout of Tampa Bay. With his 38th win, Luongo tied the single-season mark set by Kirk McLean in 1991-92.
"It's a nice achievement but honestly I'm happier we won the game and got two points," Luongo said. "The most important stat is the playoffs and the Stanley Cup."
Vancouver acquired Luongo from Florida in June as part of a blockbuster deal that sent Todd Bertuzzi south, but the fourth overall pick in the 1997 draft struggled early with his new club.
A loss to lowly Columbus on Dec. 22 dropped Luongo's record to 17-15-1. Since then, he's gone 21-4-3, hasn't lost consecutive games and has allowed two goals or fewer 18 times.
He also needs two wins to become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to post 40 victories in a season.
Luongo has allowed five total goals while winning two starts against the Coyotes this season, but both victories came in Vancouver. He's surrendered seven combined goals to lose both his career starts in Phoenix.
There is a chance Luongo could sit out this game and play Friday at San Jose. Canucks backup goalie Dany Sabourin earned the first NHL win of his career in his last start, stopping 38 shots in a 3-2 overtime win against Anaheim on Feb. 20.
Vancouver, which has a two-point lead on Calgary atop the Northwest Division, has gotten contributions from an unexpected source during its current three-game winning streak. Jeff Cowan has five goals this season - all in the last three games after failing to record a point in his previous 25.
He had no goals through 44 contests, 21 of which came with Los Angeles before the Canucks claimed him off waivers Dec. 30.
"Getting more ice time is nice. I get to try a little more out there. And that's what I attribute it to," said Cowan, whose streak started with a short-handed tally in a 4-3 win over the Coyotes last Thursday.
Phoenix (27-36-3) lost its third straight one-goal game with a 2-1 defeat to Pacific Division-leading Anaheim on Wednesday night. Shane Doan's team-high 23rd goal just 31 seconds into the contest accounted for all the Coyotes' scoring.
"Just because we're out of the playoffs, that doesn't mean we don't have pride," Phoenix forward Steve Reinprecht said. "We want to make sure we come to the rink every day with a 100 percent work ethic."
Doan tied a season high by scoring a goal in his third straight game. He has four goals and four assists in a six-game point streak, also a season-best.
Doan had a goal and assist during last week's loss in Vancouver.
Mikael Tellqvist made 24 saves Wednesday, but lost for the fourth time in five starts and evened his record this season at 10-10-2. Curtis Joseph, who likely will start this contest, has 443 career wins - four short of Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk for fourth on the all-time list.
Joseph's 21 career losses versus the Canucks are his second-most against any opponent.