VANCOUVER – After a slow start to the season, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo appears to be rounding into form.
He was rewarded with his second straight start Monday against Minnesota after a solid performance in a 5-3 victory in Toronto two days earlier. Luongo made several excellent saves against the Maple Leafs, and allowed just eight goals in the four games he played on the five-game road trip.
“I’m feeling good,” Luongo said after a team skate Monday morning. “I feel like I’m where I want to be and obviously I’m trying to work and just keep improving every day.”
His only loss on the recent road swing came in a shootout against Columbus. The Canucks had just two regulation losses in their last 10 games entering Monday night’s game against the Wild.
“It’s nice to be playing every couple nights,” Luongo said. “It keeps you in a rhythm. It was a pretty good road trip for our team.”
Luongo battled an undisclosed injury earlier this season that relegated him to backup duty for an extended stretch for the first time since his arrival in Vancouver in 2006.
It also helped spark debate about who should be the No. 1 goalie in Vancouver after Cory Schneider posted decent numbers in Luongo’s absence.
But that debate will likely subside as Luongo settles into form.
Entering play Monday night, Luongo has a 12-6-2 record with a .905 save percentage and 2.62 goals-against average. His numbers have improved of late but they’re still not close to his usual statistics.
Luongo, who guided the Canucks to the Western Conference title last spring, declined to evaluate his recent play.
“I’ll leave that up to you guys to judge,” said Luongo. “I just play the game. You guys are the writers, so you guys can figure that one out.”
The more pressing concern for the Canucks right now appears to be on the blue-line.
Aaron Rome broke his thumb while blocking a shot against Toronto. He was expected to miss three to four weeks, assistant coach Rick Bowness said Monday.
Rome missed 13 games at the start of the season after breaking the thumb on his other hand.
“He’s had a tough time getting back in the lineup and finding his game and then he gets hurt again,” said Bowness. “It’s unfortunate.”
Keith Ballard was ruled out for the Wild game because of back spasms.
“He didn’t finish the game in Toronto—the last five minutes—and he was fine when he came in this morning,” Bowness said. “But it didn’t loosen up enough, so there’s no sense playing around with that.”
Defencemen Andrew Alberts and Andrew Sulzer were expected to replace them Monday night.
The Wild have been battling a plethora of injuries to their forwards of late but received some good news Monday with the return of veteran centre Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who missed two games with a broken nose.
Minnesota called up forward Jed Ortmeyer from AHL Houston over the weekend. Forwards Mikko Koivu (leg), Devin Setoguchi (ankle), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Casey Wellman (wrist), and Justin Falk (back) remained out.