A recent slump may not be among the Vancouver Canucks' most pressing concerns, but playing without star goaltender Roberto Luongo for any length of time should be.
With Luongo expected to sit out again due to a rib injury, the Canucks will try to avoid their season-high third loss in a row as they continue their five-game road trip on Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
Luongo, the Hart and Vezina Trophy runner-up last season, was hurt during a 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Dec. 2 when a hard shot found a gap in his uniform. He then recorded road wins in Chicago and Nashville and played Saturday in a 2-1 shootout loss at home to Pittsburgh despite the worsening injury
On Monday, Luongo skated in warmups but didn't play in a 4-2 loss to Los Angeles.
"It just got worse over the last two days, and I've been in pain all day," said Luongo, who recently set a franchise record with a shutout streak that exceeded 210 minutes and included a 4-0 home victory over the Ducks on Nov. 27. "I was trying to see how I felt in warmups, but it wasn't good enough for me to go.
"It's not broken, but it hurts when I breathe and it hurts when I move. It's tough to do your job under those circumstances. It's day to day right now. Hopefully it's just a few days. It's almost got to heal on its own."
After winning a franchise-record 47 games last season, Luongo is 13-10-3 with four shutouts and a 2.12 goals-against average in 2007-08.
On Tuesday, the Canucks (16-11-3) recalled Drew MacIntyre from Manitoba of the AHL to back up Curtis Sanford, who made just his fourth start of the season and stopped 27 shots by the Kings en route to his first loss of 2007-08.
Sanford has made three career starts against the Ducks - all while with St. Louis - and is 1-1-1 with a 2.93 GAA.
Vancouver has won four of its last six visits to the Honda Center, to where the Ducks (15-13-4) return following a successful road swing. Anaheim took two of three on their trip, which concluded Monday with a 4-3, overtime victory over Columbus.
Chris Pronger, playing in his 900th career game, scored on the power play with 1:46 remaining in the extra session after drawing an assist on one of the Ducks' three second-period goals.
"We battled hard and found a way to win," said Pronger, a former Norris Trophy winner.
Corey Perry had two power-play tallies, Samuel Pahlsson added a goal on a penalty shot and Mathieu Schneider and Ryan Getzlaf each chipped in with two assists as the Ducks won for the third time in four games overall.
Anaheim's recent surge has coincided with the news that Conn Smythe Trophy-winning defenseman Scott Niedermayer would delay retirement and return to the team.
Niedermayer took part in an optional practice with teammates on Tuesday at the Honda Center. He told the Ducks' official Web site that he wants to return to the lineup quickly, but playing in this contest may be a stretch.
"I would guess that will be a tough one to make. I think that may be a long shot," said Niedermayer, whose goal in double-overtime during Game 5 of last season's Western Conference semifinals eliminated Vancouver. "I'm a little nervous stepping in like this without a warmup or an exhibition. There's no time for that. It will be different, but I'm excited for sure."