A surprise in some ways, not so much in others — Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo will start tonight at home against the Wild in the biggest game of the season for both teams.
It’s a surprise decision from head coach Alain Vigneault in that Luongo has surrendered nine goals in his last two starts, including five on 26 shots in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Red Wings.
Meanwhile, Vancouver’s other goalie, Cory Schneider, hasn’t played since March 10 in a 4-2 loss at Minnesota.
Vigneault’s decision isn’t surprising in that Luongo has played very well against the Wild recently. Courtesy TSN’s Farhan Lalji, the 33-year-old is 10-0-1 with a .949 save percentage in his last 11 home starts versus Minnesota.
The Canucks and Wild are tied in the standings with 32 points; however, the Wild have the tie-breaker for first place in the Northwest Division based on regulation/overtime wins.
“This is a big game for us,” said Luongo. “We’re all aware of what the standings are like.”
Regardless of what happens tonight, it shouldn’t be long before Schneider plays again, as the Canucks have nine games in the next 15 days.
Vancouver hosts St. Louis tomorrow.
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks
A statement from Raffi Torres:
“I accept the 41-game suspension handed down to me by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. I worked extremely hard over the last two years following reconstructive knee surgery to resume my NHL career, and this is the last thing I wanted to happen. I am disappointed I have put myself in a position to be suspended again. I sincerely apologize to Jakob for the hit that led to this suspension, and I’m extremely thankful that he wasn’t seriously injured as a result of the play. I also want to apologize to my Sharks teammates and the organization.”
A statement from San Jose GM Doug Wilson:
“The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL’s supplementary discipline decision regarding Raffi. While we do not believe there was any malicious intent, this type of hit is unacceptable and has no place in our game. There is a difference between playing hard and crossing the line and there is no doubt, in this instance, Raffi crossed that line. We’re very thankful that Jakob was not seriously injured as a result of this play.”
Silfverberg says he expects to play Saturday when the Ducks open their regular season Saturday in San Jose.