Roberto Luongo

Just wondering — when will Luongo be ready to talk?


You’ll excuse Vancouver Canucks fans for not quite trusting Mike Gillis when it comes to the topic of Roberto Luongo.

Gillis, after all, is the general manager who said all along that trading Luongo wouldn’t be a problem — just a matter of how much the Canucks could get in return — and anyone who thought otherwise didn’t know what they were talking about.

But Gillis never did (or could) trade the 34-year-old goalie with the big contract. Ultimately, it was Cory Schneider who was dealt to New Jersey at the draft on June 30.

The new CBA was to blame, said Gillis. It’s complicated, he said. Then, on Tuesday at a season-ticket holders event in Vancouver, he tried to make it sound like all was just dandy between general manager and player.

“We were laughing for most of it,” Gillis said of a recent visit to Florida to speak with Luongo, per the Globe and Mail. “It wasn’t strained or adversarial at all.”

“I’m fully confident he’ll be here (for training camp),” Gillis told reporters later.

Yet since the Schneider trade, Luongo has yet to speak publicly about his role with the club. There have been a couple of funny tweets, sure. But nothing that confirmed he’d indeed be at training camp, ready and excited to be the starting goalie for the Canucks in 2013-14.

So, why the wait?

This is where the speculation starts…

Perhaps Luongo just wants to make Gillis sweat a bit. Just a little harmless payback for failing to grant the trade request.

Heck, maybe Luongo wants the fans to sweat, too, given he was apparently upset that so much blame was heaped on his shoulders for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Bruins. And now those same fans are worried he might hold out? That could be kind of satisfying, couldn’t it?

Or maybe he’s actually considering a holdout.

Look, chances are Luongo will report to training camp. Forget all the guaranteed money he’d risk by not showing up. He’d also risk a spot on the Canadian Olympic team.

Suffice to say, the Olympics are important to Luongo. After he started and won the gold-medal game in 2010, he was asked if it erased the doubt people had in his ability to perform under pressure. His response? “You guys can be the judge of that, but I got a gold medal around my neck and nobody can take that away from me.”

The thing is, until Canucks fans hear from the man himself, they can’t know for sure what he plans to do.

Which begs another question:

Maybe Luongo doesn’t know either?

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.