Published January 08, 2015
(SportsNetwork.com) - Sitting outside the current playoff picture, the Vancouver Canucks will be forced to try and end their current struggles against a former teammate as they square off on Sunday afternoon with Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers.
The Canucks are set to face Luongo for the first time since trading him to the Panthers on March 4 along with Steven Anthony in exchange for goaltender Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias. Luongo was in the middle of his eighth season with Vancouver and had gone 19-16-6 with a 2.38 goals against average and three shutouts in 42 starts before the deal.
Luongo helped Vancouver to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 and after splitting time last season with Cory Schneider, he saw his playing time shared this campaign with Eddie Lack.
So, the Canucks dealt him to the Panthers, who he starred with early in his career before getting traded to Vancouver following the 2005-06 campaign.
"I don't know if it'll mean more, but it's going to be weird, for sure," Luongo said of facing the Canucks. "I was in that other locker room just a week and a half ago. It's the first time really I've been traded during the season. I don't know how I'm going to feel, but it's definitely going to feel weird."
The Canucks don't have time to think about their reunion with Luongo as they have lost six of their past eight games and have won just three times over the last 16 contests (3-12-1). That has dropped Vancouver five points back of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Lack made just 17 saves in Friday's 4-3 regulation setback to the Washington Capitals. Matthias scored his first goal in five games since getting dealt to the Canucks, while Jordan Schroeder and Nicklas Jensen also scored.
Jensen picked up his first NHL goal in his fourth game this season and sixth of his career for the 2011 first-round pick.
"We played well. We came away empty. No regulation points. It's a frustrating one for us because I thought a lot of people did a lot of good things," Canucks coach John Tortorella said.
Vancouver played once again without Daniel Sedin due to a strained left hamstring and announced before the game that leading goal-scorer Ryan Kesler will be out a few weeks with a right knee injury.
The Canucks have lost 13 of their past 15 on the road and are just 14-18-4 as the guest. They conclude a four-game road trip on Monday versus the Tampa Bay Lightning and are slated to give Lack the start today.
The Panthers don't have much chance at a playoff spot this season, but did halt a three-game skid with Friday's 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. Brad Boyes, Scottie Upshall and Vincent Trocheck all had third-period goals in the rally.
The 20-year-old Trocheck scored into an empty net to give him his first career NHL tally.
Brian Campbell and Quinton Howden also had goals and Jonathan Huberdeau picked up a pair of assists for the Panthers, while Luongo made 28 saves. That included stopping all 11 shots fired his way in the third period.
"I came out in the third and wanted to shut the door for the boys and was happy I got rewarded there with a couple of good goals," Luongo said. "We've got a young team here. The boys are working hard and we know there is a lot of work to be done. But guys don't quit. We got some fresh young legs, they skate hard."
The Panthers have won two in a row over the Canucks, besting Luongo and the Canucks 3-2 in a shootout at Vancouver on Nov. 19. Huberdeau beat his current teammate for the only goal of the tiebreaker.
Florida is aiming to win three straight versus Vancouver for the first time in franchise history.