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Luongo makes his way back tonight

by Adam Schwartz
The Canucks, who have an 11-13-3 record without Roberto Luongo, are happy to be getting him back from a groin injury Thursday night when they face off against the Coyotes in the fourth game of a five-game Vancouver homestand in one of 10 games in the NHL Thursday night.

“We win as a team and I’m not going to come in here and win by myself,” Luongo said. “We need 20 guys to play as a team and play well. That’s the way we’ve always won, and that’s the way it’s going to be here on out.

“We know that we’re capable of playing well. Teams go through ups and downs throughout the season and unfortunately we know we’ve lost three in a row here. But we’ve got some important games coming up here before the break and it’s important for us to really bear down and get some wins.”

“Louie is obviously a big, big part of our team, we’re happy that he’s hopefully close to come back," defenseman Mattias Ohlund said. "But I think our goaltending has been fine, we just as a team haven’t played good enough. Regardless of who’s in net, if Louie comes back soon that’s great but we still have to find a way to improve our play on the ice."

In addition to the Vancouver-Phoenix game, Paul Maurice faces the Maple Leafs for the first time since being rehired by the Hurricanes; the Islanders host the Bruins; the Canadiens go for their fifth win in six games against the Predators; the Flyers visit the Lightning; the Oilers battle the Wild in a Northwest Division showdown; the Blues go for their third win in January against the Avalanche; and the Sabres make a rare trip to Dallas.

The Red Wings are in the middle of a five-game road trip and face the Kings, and the Sharks look to extract some revenge from the Flames who beat them 5-2 last Tuesday.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* Boston center David Krejci, who had 6 goals in 56 games last season, has 17 goals in 43 games this season. Krejci, who has 3 goals and 7 points in his last three games, is averaging 16:50 of ice time this season after averaging 14:55 last season.

* Hurricanes left wing Ray Whitney, who leads the team with 22 assists and 35 points, is tied for the second-worst plus-minus rating on the team at minus-11. Whitney, who has 13 power-play points, has 13 points in divisional games.

* Montreal center Tomas Plekanec, who has been playing alongside Alex Kovalev and Max Pacioretty, has 2 goals and 4 points in his last four games. Plekanec, who had career-highs of 29 goals and 69 points last season, has just 9 goals and 20 points through 42 games and is on pace to finish the season with 17 goals and 39 points.

* Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who is second among Atlantic Division defensemen with 28 points, is third in the Atlantic Division and second on the Flyers with an average ice time of 25:15. Timonen, who has a plus-9 rating on the road and a minus-2 rating at home, has 8 assists and 10 points in 17 career games against the Lightning, including 2 assists in two games this season.

* The Oilers, who are one point out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, have scored more goals in the second period (47) than any other period. Edmonton, which has a 6-5-2 record in games which they outshoot their opponents, has a 15-13-1 when being outshot.

* Colorado defenseman John-Michael Liles, who leads Avalanche defensemen with 20 points, has just 1 point in his last seven games. Liles, who has been a plus player in his first four seasons in the League, has a minus-3 rating in 41 games this season.

* Stars center Mike Ribeiro, who is tied for third in the Pacific Division and leads the team with 27 assists, is one of just three players in the League with a minus rating and that many assists. Ribeiro, who had a plus-21 rating last season, has a minus-4 rating in his last five games.

* Canucks left wing Taylor Pyatt, who missed eight games with a broken foot, played on a line with Mats Sundin and Mason Raymond in his first game back Tuesday night in Vancouver's 5-3 loss to the Devils. Pyatt, who played just 12:29 Tuesday, had a career-high of 37 points last season, but has just 10 points in 37 games this season.

* Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk, who led the League with 144 takeaways last season, leads the League again this season with 54 takeaways. Datsyuk, who leads the team with 52 points, has 7 assists and 10 points in his last five games.

* The Flames, who are in first place in the Northwest Division by seven points, have won eight of their last nine games and have scored at least four goals in five games during that span. Calgary, which has scored the fifth-most home goals in the League with 84, have scored the 23rd-most road goals in the League with 49.

* Sharks center Joe Thornton, who plays on a line with Devin Setoguchi and Patrick Marleau, leads the Western Conference with 41 assists. Thornton, who has 35 assists and 45 points in 32 San Jose victories this season, has 6 assists and 7 points in 10 Sharks losses.

* Buffalo center Tim Connolly, who has played just 113 games in his last three seasons and has just played nine games this season, has 103 points in his last 122 games. Connolly, who has 7 points in his nine games, has just 1 point in four road games.

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