The Vancouver Canucks look to win seven straight games for the first time in over four years Sunday when they meet the Florida Panthers for the first time since the teams pulled off a five-player trade in the offseason.
Vancouver sent winger Todd Bertuzzi, goaltender Alex Auld and defenseman Bryan Allen to Florida on June 23 for goalie Roberto Luongo and defenseman Lukas Krajicek.
Luongo, who was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2003-04 with the Panthers, went 35-30-9 with a 2.97 goals-against average last season and has been even better for the Canucks, going 23-15-1 with a 2.43 GAA.
Bertuzzi piled up 433 points in six-plus seasons with the Canucks, but may be most remembered for his vicious hit on Colorado's Steve Moore midway through the 2003-04 season. He was suspended for the rest of the season for the punch that broke three vertebrae in Moore's neck and a civil suit filed by Moore is still lingering in Canadian courts.
Bertuzzi, though, isn't expected to play Sunday. After scoring seven points in seven games for the Panthers, Bertuzzi hasn't played since Oct. 18 and underwent lower back surgery in November, with no timetable set for his return.
Florida could use his scoring ability against the Canucks (23-18-1), who have used a six-game winning streak to vault into first place in the Northwest Division. With a victory Sunday, they'll have their longest run since winning 10 in a row from Nov. 9-30, 2002. Vancouver has also won seven straight at home and 11 of its last 13 at GM Place.
Luongo has been in net for each contest of the six-game win streak and has allowed two goals or less in four straight appearances.
"Right now, we're happy with the roll we're on and we just want to keep it going," Luongo said.
Matt Cooke scored two goals, including one in overtime, to give Vancouver a 3-2 win over Edmonton on Friday night. Five of the six wins during the streak have come against Edmonton and Calgary.
Those two teams have beaten Florida (15-20-8) in the first two games of its three-game road trip. The Panthers lost 4-1 to the Oilers on Tuesday and 5-4 in overtime to the Flames on Thursday. Florida had a 4-2 lead in the game against the Flames wiped out in the third period and lost with 30 seconds left in overtime.
"The guys score for me and I don't do my job at my end," Auld said. "Probably more than any game I've ever played, I felt that game was more my fault than anything else."
Auld was the Canucks' team MVP last season after going 33-26-6 with a 2.94 GAA. He's gone only 6-11-5 with a 3.22 GAA for Florida while splitting time with Ed Belfour, who's third in NHL history with 466 wins.
This is the first meeting between these teams since a 2-2 tie on Jan. 11, 2004. The Panthers haven't beaten the Canucks since a 5-2 victory at home on Oct. 20, 1999.
The Panthers have not enjoyed visiting the Canucks, with only one win in nine games in Vancouver. Florida has gone winless there since a 2-1 victory on March 7, 1994, its first visit to British Columbia.