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Luongo practices, could play on Thursday

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts while Chris Osgood turns away shots in his sleep:

Here he comes -- That sound you hear is Roberto Luongo getting into game shape.

The Vancouver Canucks captain/goaltender was back at practice Monday morning, and afterward declared himself ready to return to action. The Canucks play the third of a five-game homestand Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils.
While he likely won't play Tuesday, it's possible Luongo will be back between the pipes Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
"We're full go right now. I did everything in practice, I didn’t hold anything back,” said Luongo, who hasn't played since injuring his groin in Pittsburgh on Nov. 22.
For anyone who thinks it's only a matter of time before Luongo suffers another setback -- he was forced to leave practice early Dec. 10 -- the All-Star goalie assured the media Monday that he's fully healed.
"I feel back to normal, so that's good and I'm excited about it," said Luongo. "It's nice to be back. One full practice after not playing for seven weeks, I'm not sure I'm ready to play a game, but it's nice to be back with the boys and be part of the group again.
"It's pain free. I wouldn't be on the ice if I wasn't. That's done with as far as I'm concerned. I'm ready to go and back to 100 percent."
Despite the injury, Luongo's numbers were good enough to land him a spot on the Western Conference roster for this year's All-Star Game in Montreal. Luongo -- who is tied for second in the NHL with five shutouts -- hopes to be there for all of the festivities. He missed last year's event in Atlanta to be with his pregnant wife.
"It would be nice because it's in my hometown," said Luongo, a Montreal native. "But my main priority is the Vancouver Canucks and making sure that I give my full attention to this team and making sure when I start playing, I'm at 100 percent."
With Luongo close to returning to the lineup, Canucks GM Mike Gillis has a decision to make. Vancouver also has Curtis Sanford and Jason LaBarbera in the mix, as the latter was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 30. He is 2-1-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average since the trade.

"What's going to factor in is the assessment of their play and we're not there yet," Gillis said. "Jason has played very well and Curtis had played well in opportunities that he's had. Goaltending is a function of different factors and any decision won't be made in isolation."

Hello again
-- It had been quite some time since No. 1 Steven Stamkos and No. 2 Drew Doughty shared the same sheet of ice, but the pair did just that in Los Angeles on Monday night.

It was a painful 3-1 loss for Doughty and the Kings, as the young defenseman was forced to leave the game with a bruised right thigh after receiving a hard check against the glass by the Lightning's 6-foot-5, 260-pound Evgeny Artyukhin midway through the second period.

''The beginning of the game, it was pretty fun playing against him,'' said Stamkos, who had an assist in the victory. ''I played with him my whole junior career, so it was definitely special for us. But then Evgeny threw a big hit and unfortunately Drew got injured, so I didn't see him the rest of the game. But I'll see him in Montreal at the YoungStars game.''
Monday night provided Kings coach Terry Murray with an opportunity to get his first live look at Stamkos. He was left impressed.
''Stamkos has got some great offensive skills," Murray said. "You saw that on the power play, and a couple of times when he attacked 5-on-5. That's the first time I've ever seen him, and he's got a very instinctive game.''
On the right track
-- Slow start, great finish.
That's how the relieved Dallas Stars were feeling after Monday's dramatic 5-4 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings at the American Airlines Center -- a victory that saw the Stars rally from an early 3-1 deficit.
"That's the feeling we're trying to get to," said Dallas goalie Marty Turco, who was chased after the second period of last Thursday's 6-1 loss at Detroit. "We're (ticked) off and determined and what I've been doing hasn't even been close to good enough to what we need. We've got a great group of guys, and tonight was one of those nights where everyone was pouring it on."
Hard to argue with that, considering the Stars fired 49 shots on goal against one of the best defensive clubs in the sport. Twenty-three of them came in the second period -- just 20 minutes after they found themselves down a pair of goals.
But Trevor Daley's goal at 1:51 of overtime pulled the Stars -- whose first half would rival anything shown on SoapNet -- within five points of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"I don't think we played that bad in the first, but we started getting bounces," said Nicklas Grossman, who scored his first NHL goal in 110 career games. "We just said to each other get out there and play Dallas hockey. It was a great day for the 'D' guys and the scoring was spread around. We're trying to get a good run before the All-Star break, and every game and every point is critical right now."
Contact Brian Compton at:

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.   

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