SUN Hockey Pool

Luongo strolls into 'graveyard'

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:16 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Sitting in his stall after the morning skate, Josh Green looked over at Roberto Luongo and immediately thought of Miikka Kiprusoff.

Green, who played for Calgary during the 2003-04 season, saw first-hand, day-after-day, how much Kiprusoff means to the Flames and their fortunes.

The Vancouver forward sees the same in Luongo, the Canucks' prized goaltender acquired this past summer via trade.

"In my mind, he and Kipper are up there as the best," Green said yesterday. "I can't score on either of them in practice. I keep the pucks I score with on him."

Heady praise, indeed, but Luongo has Kiprusoff-sized expectations on him now he's in Vancouver.

Acquired from the Florida Panthers along with defenceman Lukas Krajicek for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld, Luongo arrives to a rebuilding Canucks squad that will need an all-world performance from him.

And in a city that expects it.

"The expectations of myself are the same -- to get into the playoffs," said Luongo, who was in goal when the Canucks downed the Flames 3-2 in exhibition action last night in Vancouver.

"I demand a lot out of myself every night and want to be at my best every night.

"I'm sure some people expect me to be the best goalie in the league and that's what I expect out of myself, so when I go in the net, I challenge myself to be the best I can be."

Coming to Vancouver means a new world for the 27-year-old from Montreal, who -- by the way -- has never played an NHL post-season game.

Last year, with a Panthers team that didn't come close to the playoffs, he led the NHL in games played (75), and managed to finish in the top 10 in wins (35), shutouts (4) and save percentage (91.4%).

But it was all in a city with barely any expectations or interest.

Having signing a four-year, US$27-million deal with the Canucks, Luongo's every move will be scrutinized.

Not taking the team to the playoffs -- even though it has a depleted defence and little depth at forward -- won't go over well.

Simply lasting in Vancouver will be an achievement. A total of 18 goalies have tended the Canucks' nets since Kirk McLean departed in 1998. Even past GM Brian Burke referred to it as a goalie graveyard.


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