Roberto Luongo

Luongo has Canucks fans back on his side

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Since coming to Vancouver in 2006, Roberto Luongo has been called the greatest goalie in Canucks history…as well as a colossal choker. He’s been called glib and arrogant…as well as hilarious and humble. One moment, fans can’t wait until he’s finally traded out of town; the next, they’re panicking he won’t show up to training camp.

Suffice to say, Luongo’s relationship with Vancouver hockey fans has been a complicated one — probably the most complicated the city has ever enjoyed/endured with an athlete. And after Cory Schneider was traded to New Jersey at the draft, that relationship will continue, for better or worse.

Luongo still hasn’t spoken publicly since the trade that left him “shocked.” What he has done is change agents, hiring Pat Brisson and JP Barry of CAA Sports and firing Gilles Lupien — who subsequently accused the Canucks of treating his client “like a piece of paper, a fourth-line player.”

Whether Luongo also feels that way isn’t clear. Again, he hasn’t spoken publicly. But happy or sad, there’s no questioning his importance to the team. Just like old times, Luongo is the undisputed number one again, with Vancouver’s backup expected to be either Eddie Lack or Joacim Eriksson, neither of whom have played a single NHL game.

Which, in a cynical sense, is part of the reason Canucks fans seem to be rallying around the 34-year-old: they know they need him again.

But that’s only part of it. For many, Luongo has become a sympathetic figure — a bit of an oddity considering not many sympathetic figures have a $64 million contract. But money isn’t everything, right? Most fans are evolved enough to accept a player can be rich and frustrated at the same time. Sure, there’s something to be said for keeping a proper perspective. But there’s also something to be said for wanting more from life than money.

There’s no doubt the self-effacing tweets have helped Luongo’s reputation, too. Remember, there was a time not long ago when Luongo was the moody, spoiled, typically entitled pro athlete and Tim Thomas was the guy you’d want to go grab a beer with. These days, Luongo is offering up spots to fans to participate in his fantasy football league and joking about getting his tires stolen.

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How this all plays out, nobody can say for sure. The Luongo soap opera in Vancouver has been anything but predictable. At this point, everything from a fairy-tale ending to a compliance buyout is on the table.

More Canucks day on PHT:

In two years, Gillis has gone from top dog to embattled GM

Young guys will be key for Canucks

Agent: KHL teams interested in Tanev

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’