Vancouver Canuck players keep succumbing to injury, but it seems the more bodies lost, the better the results.
That was the case again last night as the undermanned Canucks defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 behind a Roberto Luongo shutout, earning their third straight victory and improving to 2-4 against the Northwest Division this season. The Canucks moved above .500 for the first time in this young NHL campaign thanks to goals from Henrik Sedin and rookie Michael Grabner, and a tight defensive effort that kept the Oilers at bay.
Luongo made 27 saves in his second splendid start of the weekend, and outduelled Jeff Deslauriers, who was starting in place of Nikolai Khabibulin, in the second of back-to-back games. Edmonton lost 5-2 to Calgary on Saturday, while Vancouver beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 thanks to Luongo.
Each team entered the game minus six regular skaters, although Vancouver's lineup was reinforced by defenceman Mathieu Schneider, who played his first game as a Canuck after signing as a free agent this summer. Schneider, 40, missed the first 10 games while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, and is expected to quarterback the team's power play and mentor defenceman Alexander Edler, who is off to an uneven start.
Schneider's return may help the blue line, but the forward ranks continue to be depleted by injuries.
Centre Kyle Wellwood broke a toe while blocking a shot on Saturday. He is considered day-to-day and has been replaced by Russian rookie Sergei Shirokov, who was recalled from the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose yesterday.
Shirokov won a job with the NHL team at training camp, but was demoted after three ineffective games. But upon his return, the 23-year-old was tossed immediately onto the first line with Sedin and Mikael Samuelsson, which demonstrates just how little scoring is in Vancouver's lineup these days.
Besides Wellwood, the team is without Daniel Sedin, Pavol Demitra, Jannik Hansen and Rick Rypien. Demitra, in fact, had a setback while recovering from shoulder surgery, and underwent another procedure late last week. He will be lost for at least eight weeks.
Last night, the Canucks staved off a two-man disadvantage in the first period, then weathered a four-minute penalty in the third period.
Edmonton's five-on-three advantage lasted for one minute and 32 seconds, and featured several dangerous point shots from Patrick O'Sullivan, and some rebound opportunities for Ethan Moreau and Dustin Penner.
The Oilers were less potent on the third-period power play, which came because Grabner hit Lubomir Visnovsky with an accidental high stick.
It was the Austrian's only miscue, as he continues to look more and more comfortable in NHL surroundings, notching 13 shots in his past two games. The former first-round draft pick now has five points in six games.