Roberto Luongo will wear a vintage mask and uniform Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
But the Vancouver Canucks goaltender is not feeling nostalgic about his previous effort against one of the NHL’s Original Six teams. Luongo allowed all of the goals as the Canucks were shellacked 8-3 on Feb. 24 in the Motor City.
Accordingly, Luongo, who has impersonated a detective in a TV spoof on occasion, knows there is not much mystery when it comes to the game’s plot line. It will be about revenge.
“It’s a good chance for myself and for the team to get back at it and erase what was a pretty painful game,” said Luongo, who will make his third consecutive start.
The Canucks (13-7-6) will wear maroon jerseys with a large “V” and the word Vancouver along with similarly-coloured helmets and socks and greyish pants in celebration of a century of hockey on the West Coast. The uniform is a replica of the one worn by the Vancouver Millionaires, the city’s first professional team, which toiled in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1912 through 1922 (winning the Stanley Cup in 1915).
Luongo, his teammates and the coaches wore vintage practice duds Friday, in preparation for the Wings.
While trying to honour early 20th century hockey in the city, they will try to make amends for their effort in the recent past.
“It was not a game that was fun to be part of,” Luongo said. “It happens once in a while, unfortunately. The main thing is, you’ve gotta know how to respond – and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Luongo has responded well most of the time – when called upon – since the debacle in Detroit. He backstopped the Canucks to their second consecutive win last Thursday, as they put on a rare offensive display in a 7-4 victory over the Nashville Predators.
The recent strong showing, which included a shootout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, came after he watched five of six games as Cory Schneider’s backup following the one-sided loss to the Red Wings. Consequently, head coach Alain Vigneault has kept the coin that he sometimes flips to determine his starting goaltender, has not been seen or mentioned lately.
“I just believe, right now, it’s the right call to do,” Vigneault said of starting Luongo.
The Vancouver bench boss said the club is looking for a strong bounce-back against the Wings, noting they still possess considerable talent despite being in the unusual position of having to battle for a Western Conference playoff spot.
Luongo’s teammates are also looking for a better effort from themselves against a team that could be tired after playing in Edmonton on Friday.
“We have something to prove after what happened in Detroit last time,” winger Jannik Hansen said. “So it should make for a good game.”
The Canucks hope to produce another strong offensive showing after sending Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne to the bench early. All of Vancouver’s goals came at even strength while the power play remained dormant.
The Canucks have not scored a man-advantage marker since potting one Feb. 21 in Dallas.
Vigneault said the power-play units have mirrored the team as a whole, playing well at times but not getting the results. Captain Henrik Sedin said the power play has shown signs of improvement lately, but still needs to be better.
“It’s not where we want it to be, and I think it shows,” he said. “The 5-on-5, we’re close to where we want it to be. That’s a good sign – but we’ve gotta get the power play going.”
While trying to change the power play, the Canucks will also try to adjust to new gloves among the other attire. The Canucks have worn the new stuff previously in workouts, but defenceman Kevin Bieksa said it takes some players longer than others to get used to new equipment.
Some players use two or three pairs of gloves every game, while others will change every couple of weeks.
Bieksa is like beer-league players who cherish their old gear.
“Personally, I use equipment until I’m forced out of it by a trainer,” he said. “For guys like me, it’s a little bit of an adjustment wearing them.”