VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was named the NHL's Third Star for the period ending Dec. 8, but he won't face the First Star for the same time period, the Carolina Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner, on Monday when the Canucks host the Hurricanes.
Instead, Canucks backup goalie Eddie Lack will play against the Hurricanes and Skinner, who had five goals and an assist in three games last week. It will be Lack’s first home game after watching Luongo come within seven seconds of a shutout in a 3-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.
Lack is 3-2-0 with a .911 save percentage in his first full NHL season, including 29 saves in a 3-2 win in Carolina eight days earlier. The 25-year-old Swede has started the back half of five of the first six sets of back-to-back games for the Canucks, but always on the road.
"It's something I've been looking forward to for a while," Lack said of playing at home. "You nap in the hotel on the road, you nap in your own bed here, that's pretty much the only difference. It's still the same ice."
Carolina didn't skate Monday morning. Coach Kirk Muller wouldn't reveal his starting goalie but there was speculation it would be backup Justin Peters. That would leave Cam Ward, who is coming off a 5-3 home win against the San Jose Sharks on Friday, to play the second half of back-to-back games Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers. Ward grew up near Edmonton.
Muller may not have been tipping his hand on his goalies or his line combinations. Zach Boychuk was sent down to the American Hockey League after the win against San Jose, but there was no indication as to which injured forward might replace him. Alexander Semin, who has missed 10 games with a concussion, is with the team for the four-game road trip and skated at practice in Vancouver on Sunday.
The only thing that was clear Monday is Muller won't mess around with his top line of Skinner, Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu.
Led by Skinner, the trio has combined for six goals and eight points during a three-game win streak since the loss to Vancouver.
"Our leaders have been stepping up," Muller said. "Eric Staal and Skinner, and we put that line together with Ruutu."
Skinner has led the way after a slow start coming off an upper-body injury that forced him to miss 11 games. He had one assist in his first four games back, but six goals and an assist in the next five.
"He is a natural goal scorer and it was unfortunate when he got hurt because he was off to a great start," Muller said. "But he's getting to the rough areas of the rink where goal scorers have to go, and once he gets into those areas and it's in his stick he can score."
Here are the expected lines for the Hurricanes and Canucks:
Jeff Skinner – Eric Staal – Tuomo Ruutu
Nathan Gerbe – Jordan Staal – Elias Lindholm
Jiri Tlusty – Manny Malhotra – Radek Dvorak
Patrick Dwyer - Riley Nash – Kevin Westgarth
Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Ron Hainsey - Ryan Murphy
Jay Harrison - Tim Gleason
Scratched: Drayson Bowman
Injured: Mike Komisarek (lower body), Alexander Semin (concussion), Brett Bellemore (concussion), Anton Khudobin (lower body)
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Mike Santorelli
Dale Weise - Brad Richardson - David Booth
Tom Sestito - Zac Dalpe - Zack Kassian
Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev ?????????
Ryan Stanton - Kevin Bieksa
Andrew Alberts - Jason Garrison
Scratched: Jeremy Welsh
Injured: Alexander Edler (knee), Alexandre Burrows (broken jaw), Jordan Schroeder (foot)