Canucks Game Day: Panthers hope to make Luongo look good in goalie's return to

Will this be the final time Roberto Luongo visits Rogers Arena? The Florida Panthers’ goaltender, who turns 40 in April, was an important part of the Canucks’ past successes. Tonight he’s scheduled to play against them.

Jose Juarez / Associated Press Files

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NEXT GAME: SUNDAY

Florida Panthers at Vancouver Canucks

4 p.m., Rogers Arena, TV: Sportsnet Pacific, Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM


THE BIG MATCHUP

Bo Horvat vs. Sasha Barkov

With rookie Elias Pettersson still out of the Canucks’ lineup, the heavy lifting offensively and defensively once again falls on Bo Horvat. Horvat hasn’t scored since before Christmas, so you know he’s anxious to find his mojo. Sasha Barkov is the top guy for the Panthers, so figure on these two going head to head.

FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Lou’s last show at Rogers?

Is this Roberto Luongo’s last visit to Vancouver? The popular netminder has three seasons to go on his contract after this one. He’ll turn 40 in April and has had two injuries this season that saw him miss time. He was great last year, but in 22 games this season, his save percentage has dipped to .891 —well below his career norm.

2. Defence pairings

After Thursday’s 4-3 OT loss to the Arizona Coyotes, Canucks coach Travis Green acknowledged things haven’t been going well for the second defensive pairing of Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson and hinted he might look at switching them up. Going off practice, Gudbranson will skate with Derrick Pouliot, with whom he’s had some success, while Hutton will be with Troy Stecher, another pairing that’s played well.

3. Demko debut?

Might Green be tempted to start rookie netminder Thatcher Demko against the Panthers? He’s backed up Jacob Markstrom the last two games. He’s going to play sometime.

4. Return of Josh Leivo

All signs point to Josh Leivo returning from the back spasms that knocked him out of the lineup just over a week ago. He’s missed three games. The Canucks have a winning record when he’s in the lineup.

To activate Leivo from the injured reserve list, the Canucks will have to make a roster move, either sending Adam Gaudette back to Utica, or putting another player, like one of their spare defencemen —Michael Del Zotto or Alex Biega — on waivers.

5.  Beware the Panthers’ PP

Things may not be going all that well in Panthers-land, but the power play isn’t the issue. They’re fourth in the league. The likes of Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Keith Yandle and Mike Hoffman are dominant with the man advantage. Watch out.

image

After a rough couple of games together, Erik Gudbranson and Ben Hutton might be split into different defensive pairings against Florida, including Hutton with Troy Stecher, right, pictured battling Kasperi Kapanen of the Leafs on Jan. 5.

Nathan Denette /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

CANUCKS’ LINES

LW – C – RW

Sven Baertschi — Bo Horvat — Brock Boeser

Nikolay Goldobin — Markus Granlund — Josh Leivo

Antoine Roussel — Brandon Sutter — Jake Virtanen

Loui Eriksson — Jay Beagle — Tyler Motte

Defence pairings

Alex Edler — Chris Tanev

Ben Hutton — Troy Stecher

Derrick Pouliot — Erik Gudbranson

Goalie: Jacob Markstrom

PANTHERS’ LINES

LW – C – RW

Jonathan Huberdeau — Aleksander Barkov — Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman — Henrik Borgstrom — Denis Malgin

Frank Vatrano — Juho Lammikko — Troy Brouwer

Jayce Hawryluk — Colton Sceviour — Micheal Haley

Defence pairings

Michael Matheson — Aaron Ekblad

Keith Yandle — Mark Pysyk

Bogdan Kiselevich — Mackenzie Weegar

Goalie: Roberto Luongo

SICK BAY

Canucks: Elias Pettersson (knee), Josh Leivo (back spasms)

Panthers: Jamie McGinn (back), Derek MacKenzie (shoulder), Vincent Trocheck (ankle), Nick Bjugstad (upper body)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play

Canucks: 17.3% (21st), Panthers: 18.3% (19th)

Penalty kill

Canucks: 78.3% (22nd), Panthers: 27.0% (4th)

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