Roberto Luongo was a huge reason why the Vancouver Canucks won the Northwest Division last season. His recent play is making sure they'll be back in the playoffs.
Looking for their season-high fourth-straight win, the Canucks will be tested on Saturday night at GM Place when they meet the league-leading Detroit Red Wings, who are looking to overcome their own struggles.
In 2006-07 - Luongo's first season with the Canucks (31-22-8) - he set a franchise record with 47 wins, helping lead them to their second division crown in three years. Despite that, he finished as runner-up to Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the Hart Trophy and to New Jersey's Martin Brodeur for the Vezina Trophy.
Luongo got off to a slow start this season, losing eight of his first 12 starts, but he's been tough to beat over the past week and returns to Vancouver after making a season-high 49 saves on Thursday in a 3-2 win over Nashville.
"This game was all Roberto," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "And we're not going to apologize for it because so many times this year we outplayed the opposition and got on the wrong side of it."
|The Canucks are seeking their season-high fourth-straight win tonight when they square off against the NHL's best Detroit Red Wings. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Rookie Mason Raymond scored twice, including the lone goal in the shootout.
Luongo has given up just two goals in each of the Canucks' wins during their current run. Vancouver hasn't won four straight regular-season games since March 15-21, a streak that included a home victory over the Red Wings.
He also will be looking for his first win against Detroit this season. With Luongo in goal, the Canucks have dropped all three meetings with the Red Wings by 3-2 scores. Vancouver hasn't been swept in a season series by Detroit since 1994-95.
The Canucks' recent play, though, has pushed them back into the playoff race. The Canucks are eighth in the West with 70 points, but just three points in the Northwest behind Minnesota, which also is third in the conference.
The Red Wings (42-16-5) have fared poorly after posting an eight-game winning streak from Jan. 17-Feb. 5. They've followed that up by going 1-6-1, including a 1-0 loss to Calgary on Friday.
Detroit has been outscored 22-14 in its last eight games, managing only 10 goals in the seven losses. While they continue to lead the NHL with 89 points, the Red Wings' lead for the Presidents' Trophy is down to only eight points over surging Dallas.
"It seems like in this little stretch here, we've had lots of chances but we're not just finishing," Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby said.
Mounting injuries, particularly on defense, have been perhaps the biggest reason for Detroit's woes.
Five-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom will miss at least another 2 1/2 weeks with a sprained right MCL, Brian Rafalski is on injured reserve with a sore groin and Niklas Kronwall hasn't played this month due to an injured collarbone. Six-time Vezina winner Dominik Hasek has been out since Feb. 11 with a injured hip and forward Daniel Cleary remains out indefinitely with a broken jaw.
Adding to that list, 46-year-old Chris Chelios left against Calgary when he took a shot off the back of his leg. His status for this game is not known.
Chris Osgood allowed a first-period goal to the Flames' Alex Tanguay and finished with 25 saves en route to his fifth loss in six games. Osgood had only five losses in his first 27 decisions (22-3-2).
He stopped 27 shots in a win on Oct. 27 at Vancouver, and is 15-4-0 with four ties, a 2.41 goals-against average and one shutout in his career versus the Canucks.