Mike Halford

Roberto Luongo

Goalie nods: Vancouver welcomes back red-hot Luongo, who ‘didn’t go to Florida to retire’

It’s always a story whenever Roberto Luongo faces his old team, the Vancouver Canucks.

And today was no different.

Ahead of Monday night’s tilt between the Panthers and Canucks at Rogers Arena, Luongo held scourt with the Vancouver media to talk about a number of things — specifically, thoughts on his red-hot team, which heads into tonight looking for a 13th consecutive victory.

“I didn’t go to Florida to retire,” Luongo explained, per Sportsnet. “I went to try and turn the corner of the franchise and have at least one more kick at it.”

Luongo, who turns 37 in April, is enjoying one of the best seasons of his lengthy career. He’s headed back to the All-Star game — his second in as many seasons — on the strength of an 19-11-3 record, 2.06 GAA, .931 save percentage and three shutouts.

Despite being one of the older starting netminders in the league, Luongo has also emerged as a real workhorse for the Panthers. He sits eighth in games played and fifth in saves, with 980. It’s all part of the reason he’s in serious discussion for this year’s Vezina trophy, something he’s never won (closest he came was runner-up to Martin Brodeur in ’07).

Yet every time he plays the Canucks, the conversations eventually turn to his tumultuous time with the organization.

And once again, this time was no different.

“I did a lot of growing up in Van. Unfortunately, when I figured it out it was a little too late for me there,” Luongo told Sportsnet’s Mark Spector. “I just look at things differently now. I keep it in mind that I’m playing the game that I love, and I’m going to enjoy these moments.

“I don’t think about the stuff surrounding me that sometimes can become distractions.”

For the Canucks, Jacob Markstrom — part of the trade that sent Luongo to Florida — will start in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Potential marquee matchup brewing in New York, as the Bruins look likely to put Tuukka Rask up against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.

Martin Jones, coming off a 7-0 shutout of Toronto over the weekend, starts for the Sharks in Calgary. The Flames will go with Karri Ramo.

— The Wings will give Jimmy Howard a shot (or Petr Mrazek a night off, depending on how you look at it) in Los Angeles. The Kings, as per usual, are going with Jonathan Quick.

Blue Monday in St. Louis: Allen, Bouwmeester, Paajarvi all out week-to-week

ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 08:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues clears a rebound during the first period against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on January 8, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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These are not good times for the St. Louis Blues.

The team, which has just four wins in its last 11 games, announced on Monday that starting goalie Jake Allen, veteran d-man Jay Bouwmeester and forward Magnus Paajarvi are all out week-to-week with their respective injuries.

As is the way in this league, details about the severity of said ailments is spotty at best. Per NHL.com, Bouwmeester and Paajarvi have upper-body injuries, Allen is lower-body, and right now it’s unclear if any will require surgery.

As for the ramifications…

Brian Elliott takes over No. 1 duties in goal, with recently-recalled Jordan Binnington serving as the backup. Elliott was pretty good in his first start following the Allen injury, making 26 saves in a 2-1 shootout win over the Kings on Saturday.

On defense, Bouwmeester’s absence resulted in the following new-looking pairings:

Kevin ShattenkirkAlex Pietrangelo

Joel EdmundsonColton Parayko

Chris Butler-Robert Bortuzzo

At forward, Paajarvi’s absence (along with Paul Statsny, who’s day-to-day with an upper-body ailment of his own), saw some shuffling as well:

As a result, the Blues will be a team to watch leading into the All-Star break. While they currently sit third in the meat-grinder central division, they’re only three points up on Minnesota — holder of the first wild card spot — and the Wild has three games in hand.

(St. Louis actually leads the NHL in games played right now, with 45.)

The Blues will begin a four-game homestand tomorrow against New Jersey. Once that’s complete, it’s three road games — in Detroit, Colorado and Chicago — before breaking for the league’s annual All-Star gala in Nashville.

Wild’s lack of power plays is driving Mike Yeo ‘nuts’

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Minnesota has scored just one power play goal in its last 12 games. That in itself is troubling, but for head coach Mike Yeo, the fact his club’s only had 22 man advantage opportunities over that spell is equally distressing.

“The one thing that’s really driving me nuts though, and we’re a really good hockey team: I can’t understand why we draw one power play a game right now,” Yeo said, per the Star-Tribune. “It makes no sense to me whatsoever. It’s night after night, it doesn’t matter where or who we play against, and it doesn’t matter who’s officiating, it’s a consistent thing.

“I’m trying to find reasons, and I can’t understand why. It’s pretty hard. It would be nice to draw more than one power play a game, and we just can’t seem to do that right now.”

Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Devils marked the third straight game in which the Wild, as Yeo pointed out, got just one power play chance. This has been something of a recurring theme — back on Dec. 21, which is when the PP skid began, the Wild didn’t get a single man advantage opportunity in a 6-3 loss to Dallas.

The next night, against Montreal, Minnesota got one chance. Eight nights later, in St. Louis, another game in which the Wild only went to the PP once.

It’s hard to say exactly why this has happened. Mike Russo of the Star-Tribune suggested a combination of factors, specifically 1) “spotty performances” in which the Wild weren’t driving play, and 2) “some crazy no-calls (high-sticks, muggings, obstructions).”

All told, the Wild sit 24th in the NHL in power play chances this year, with 123. That’s down slightly from last year, when they finished 18th, but up from two years ago, when they finished with the fifth-fewest PP opportunities in the league.

So maybe Yeo’s got a point.

Boudreau: There’s a ‘dark cloud’ over Getzlaf this season

150802-Ryan-Getzlaf
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To say this has been a tough campaign for Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf would be an understatement.

Just ask his head coach.

“It just seems that this year, there’s that dark cloud,” Bruce Boudreau said in the wake of Sunday’s loss to Detroit, per the L.A. Times. “When he makes a mistake, no matter how well he’s played during the course of the game, it seems to cost us.”

The latest Getz-gaffe?

Check it out:

That’s the Anaheim captain turning the puck over in his own zone, leading to Riley Sheahan‘s game-winning goal with less than four minutes remaining.

Getzlaf admitted he needed to “make a better play” in this instance, explaining that, because the puck was rolling, he tried to control it first rather than quickly whipping it away to safety.

He then took ownership of the error.

“A mistake like that, it hurts,” he said. “Obviously I can’t do those things.”

As mentioned above, it’s been a season of mistakes for Getzlaf. Sunday’s was the latest, but hardly the most egregious — that came against Arizona earlier in the campaign:

At this point, it’s fair to wonder if — not when — Anaheim can turn this thing around. The Ducks are now at the midway point of the season (Sunday’s game against Detroit was No. 41 of 82), and their leader is still making costly, costly mistakes.

What’s more, the offense looks no closer to breaking out than it did before. Anaheim still sits dead last in the NHL in goals per game, at 1.85 per, and has scored just 11 goals in its last seven games.

Leafs lose leading scorer van Riemsdyk (broken foot) for 6-8 weeks

James van Riemsdyk
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Not a great last couple of days in Leaf land.

Following a dismal 7-0 blowout loss at the hands of San Jose, the Leafs learned on Monday that leading scorer James van Riemsdyk would miss the next 6-8 weeks with a broken foot.

Van Riemsdyk, who has 14 goals and 29 points through 40 games this season, has been one of the most durable players on Toronto’s roster over the last few years. He’s missed just two of the last 254 games and was on pace to come within striking distance of his career high in points (he had 61 during the ’13-14 campaign).

With van Riemsdyk sidelined, the Leafs have recalled Josh Leivo from the AHL Marlies.

It’s hard to say just how profound this loss is for Toronto, but it’s clear it’s a big one.

The Leafs are not an offensive juggernaut, sitting just 23rd in the NHL in goals for, and van Riemsdyk was one of only three double-digit goalscorers on the roster, along with Leo Komarov and P.A. Parenteau.