The Vancouver Canucks are close to getting their All-Star goaltender back, but it likely won't come in their next game.
The Canucks are expected to go at least one more game without Roberto Luongo in net as they try to avoid a fifth straight home loss Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils.
While Luongo is back practicing after missing 23 games with a groin injury, Jason LaBarbera is expected to start as Vancouver (22-17-5) looks to avoid a third consecutive loss overall while trying for its fifth win in six games against New Jersey.
The Canucks are 9-11-3 since losing Luongo, who has declared himself day-to-day, making Thursday's contest against Phoenix his possible return date.
"It's just a matter of the way things go in practice, the way I feel and make sure I'm at the level I need to be at to help the team," said Luongo, who is 11-5-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average and was named to Western Conference All-Star team.
Vancouver, fifth in the West, can certainly benefit from having their captain back after allowing 10 goals in their last two games. Curtis Sanford made 23 saves in a 4-2 loss to San Jose on Saturday, but will give way to LaBarbera. Both are vying for the right to backup Luongo.
LaBarbera is 2-1-2 with a 2.72 GAA since being acquired from Los Angeles on Dec. 30. He made 30 saves in a 6-4 defeat to St. Louis on Friday for the Canucks, who haven't lost five in a row at home since December 2005.
LaBarbera made 19 saves in a 6-3 loss to New Jersey last season while with the Kings.
On Saturday, Mats Sundin scored his first goal in his third game since signing with Vancouver, while Daniel Sedin also scored and Henrik Sedin recorded two assists for the Canucks, who were outshot 10-2 in the third period.
"There needs to be a bigger sense of urgency from our group to put some wins together here," coach Alain Vigneault told the Canucks' official Web site. "We've got a lot of guys that in my mind can play better and have to play better if we are to get on the winning track here."
Daniel Sedin has a goal in each of his last two games and posted two assists in Vancouver's 5-0 home win over the Devils on Dec. 18, 2007 in the teams' most recent meeting.
New Jersey (24-15-3) enters this contest off a 4-3 loss at Anaheim on Sunday to drop to 1-1 on its six-game road trip.
All-Star Zach Parise scored his second goal in as many games for the Devils, who were held to just 10 shots in the first two periods while losing for the third time in four games.
"We didn't play smart hockey," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "We weren't dumping the puck smart."
Scott Clemmensen made 30 saves, but lost his third in a row. He is 15-9-1 with a 2.38 GAA while earning the majority of playing time as Martin Brodeur continues to recover from elbow surgery. Clemmensen has never faced the Canucks.
New Jersey has lost three in a row at Vancouver since to a 2-1 victory there on March 15, 1999.