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Luongo's back on the ice, but no return set

by John Kreiser
The good news for the Vancouver Canucks: All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo was taking shots for an hour or so on Wednesday morning at Edmonton's Rexall Place.

The bad news: He still doesn't know when he'll be ready to return from the groin injury that has sidelined him since late November.

Luongo had an 11-5-2 record, five shutouts and a 2.17 goals-against average through 19 games before leaving Vancouver's Nov. 22 game at Pittsburgh in the first period with a groin injury. Despite his long absence, he was named Wednesday as a reserve for the Western Conference team for the All-Star Game, being played in his home city of Montreal — although there's no indication he'll be ready to play in it.

But after taking shots from goaltending consultant Ian Clark Wednesday morning at Rexall Place, Luongo said he's making progress.

"I'm able to do movements totally pain-free," he said. "I'm able to kick it out and not worry about hurting it again. But it's still in a controlled environment. I'm not (going) full-out in practice."

Luongo resumed skating briefly in December, and the Canucks hoped he was close to returning. But he was shut down after experiencing soreness in the injured groin.

''It wasn't feeling like it was supposed to be feeling, so I got off the ice,'' Luongo said on Dec. 14. ''I didn't want to make it worse and I'm going to stay off the ice until I'm 100 percent.''

He said Wednesday that while he's getting closer to getting back into action, he wants to make sure that he doesn't re-aggravate the injury when he returns to the lineup — and he's not at that point yet.

"I'm getting closer — no doubt," he said. "I made some strides last week.

"But I don't want to get ahead of myself and start thinking of some dates — and do something maybe I'm not ready for."

The Canucks are eager to have him back in the lineup. Backup Curtis Sanford also went down with a groin injury last week, and Vancouver GM Mike Gillis acquired Jason LaBarbera from the Los Angeles Kings last week.

Despite the injury to Luongo, the Canucks reached the halfway point of the season with a 21-15-3 record and 47 points. They are second in the Northwest Division, five points behind the Calgary Flames, and hoped to get a boost from the signing of center Mats Sundin, who made his debut with Vancouver in Wednesday night's 4-2 victory at Edmonton.
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