The Vancouver Canucks know Roberto Luongo is going to provide them with exceptional goaltending. The question heading into 2007-08 is who else besides the Sedin twins is going to provide the offense.
The reigning Northwest Division champions open the new season on Friday night at GM Place against the San Jose Sharks.
The Canucks scored just 222 goals last season - the fewest among Western Conference playoff teams - but still set franchise records with 49 wins and 105 points en route to their second division title in three seasons.
Facing Dallas in the first round of the postseason, Vancouver advanced in seven games but failed to score in any of its three losses. The Canucks' offense managed only eight goals as they fell to eventual Stanley Cup champion Anaheim in five games in the second round.
"We're probably not the most dynamic offensive team in the league," said the Canucks' Trevor Linden, who is back for his 19th NHL season. "You can look at other teams and say they have more talent up front, but I don't know if that wins you games all the time."
Luongo, acquired in June 2006 from Florida in a blockbuster deal, paid immediate dividends in his first season. He set a franchise record with 47 wins, one behind league leader Martin Brodeur of New Jersey, and finished fourth in the NHL with a .921 save percentage.
"Every team depends on their goaltender," said Luongo, who was a finalist for both the Hart and Vezina Trophies. "The goalie has to do a good job if they want to give their team a chance to win every night. It's been like that my whole life."
Luongo's home debut with Vancouver was a forgettable one as he gave up a season-high six goals in a loss to San Jose. He conceded a total of five in three wins over the Sharks after that.
The Canucks' offense again will be led by twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Daniel led Vancouver with 36 goals - no one else had more than 24 and seven players had 14 or fewer - while Henrik set a single-season franchise record with 71 assists.
Thanks to an impressive preseason, 22-year-old rookie Mason Raymond will start the season on the top line with them.
"Obviously, it's a big open window for myself. I want to take advantage of it," said Raymond, who played 24 games last season with the Canucks' AHL team in Manitoba after two seasons collegiately at Minnesota-Duluth.
The second line features another young player with two veterans. Former Ducks forward Ryan Shannon, who's only 24, will play with Ryan Kesler and Markus Naslund.
"I've always been very patient when I think the intensity and the preparation and the hard work (are) there," said Alain Vigneault, who begins his second season behind the Vancouver bench. "You give those guys a chance to succeed. We think they will.
"Time will tell, and exactly what that timeframe is, I can't tell you exactly, but I do think those guys have showed a lot of up side and I'm willing to ride this out a little bit here."
One player who also may provide an offensive spark for the Canucks in this contest is Kevin Bieksa, who led all Vancouver defensemen with 30 assists and 42 points last season. He will be expected to pick up the slack for oft-injured but offensively gifted Sami Salo, who's out for two weeks with a broken wrist.
Vancouver is 20-13-3 all-time in season-openers.
San Jose (0-0-1) needs to quickly forget a tough season-opening loss after falling 3-2 in a shootout to Edmonton on Wednesday. Joe Thornton's power-play goal with 11 seconds left in regulation sent the game into overtime, but Evgeni Nabokov allowed the game-winner to Jarrett Stoll in the fourth round of the shootout.
Thornton, the league's leading scorer over the last two seasons with 239 points, said the Sharks were happy just to come back and earn a point.
"We had a pretty good first, a terrible second and an average third," he said. "We have lots of room to improve. It's a tough place to play and to get a point out of their home opener is something we're going to have to be happy with."
Despite his offensive skills, Thornton failed to tally a point in two games last season in Vancouver. He finished with a goal and three assists in the season series.