Roberto Luongo is expected to be back in net and rookie Kyle Turris makes his long-awaited homecoming to B.C. when the Vancouver Canucks host the Phoenix Coyotes at GM Place.
Luongo has missed the last 24 games with a groin injury originally suffered on November 22 versus Pittsburgh. Prior to his injury he was 11-5-2 with a 2.17 goals against average, and his five shutouts are tied for second in the NHL despite his missed time.
The Canucks will turn to their franchise netminder, who was named an All-Star reserve while on injured reserve, in hopes of avoiding their fourth straight loss, which would match their longest skid of the season. Vancouver dropped four straight from November 27-December 4.
The three losses have come in the first three contests of a five-game homestand. Vancouver has been outscored 15-9 over the skid, which includes losses to St. Louis, San Jose and most recently New Jersey.
The Canucks hosted the Devils on Tuesday and dropped a 5-3 decision. Alex Burrows, Steve Bernier and Pavol Demitra had the goals for Vancouver, which has lost five straight overall at home and is 11-9-2 at GM Place this year.
Jason LaBarbera gave up two goals on six shots in the start for the Canucks before being replaced by Curtis Sanford, who made 19 saves the rest of the way. However, Sanford was placed on waivers Wednesday to make room for Luongo. Sanford is 7-8-0 with a 2.56 GAA in 19 games this year, while LaBarbera is 2-1-2 with a 3.07 GAA in six games since being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings two weeks ago.
Vancouver will wrap up its residency on Sunday versus Columbus and its skid has it seven points back of first-place Calgary in the Northwest Division.
Phoenix had a two-game winning streak end with Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild. The setback came in the opener of a four-game road trip and was the Coyotes' fifth in their last six as the visiting club.
Steven Reinprecht had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes, who fell to 6-12-3 as the road team this year. Joakim Lindstrom and Olli Jokinen also scored, while Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov gave up all six goals on 34 shots.
Jokinen's goal was his 15th of the season, second most on the Coyotes. He has failed to score in 11 career meetings with the Canucks, while Phoenix's leading scorer, Shane Doan (18 goals, 24 assists), hasn't lit the lamp in a season high-tying five straight games overall.
Despite a 1.63 career GAA versus Vancouver, Bryzgalov is just 3-3-1 against the club. He halted 31-of-32 shots faced versus the Canucks on November 6, but was on the wrong end of a 1-0 decision.
Tonight's game will also Kyle Turris' pro debut in his home province. The New Westminster, B.C. native, grew up idolizing the Canucks, was made a healthy scratch by coach Wayne Gretzky when the two clubs met in Vancouver in November.
Phoenix has beaten the Canucks just three times in the last 10 meetings between the teams and is a mere 1-12 with a tie in its last 14 games in Vancouver.
Luongo is 5-5-0 with a 2.22 GAA in his career against the Coyotes, including that shutout victory in November.