All things considered, the Edmonton Oilers would rather face the Vancouver Canucks without Roberto Luongo.
Yet heading into last night's game, they knew it wouldn't be a cake-walk with Curtis Sanford in goal.
Sanford had won all five previous games he played against the Oilers.
"For us it doesn't change that much - you still want to get as many pucks to the net as possible, get some traffic and try to put those second and third chances in the net," said Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff. "Obviously when he's on, he's the best goalie in the world and he makes it tough on us. But we don't want to change our game that much."
Sanford, 28, took over the starter's role after Luongo went down with a rib injury.
The native of Owen Sound, Ont., has played the last four games for the Canucks, having only played in only four before Luongo went down.
"Sanford has played well against us in the past when he was with St. Louis," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
"I've been around long enough to know you can't get comfortable with whoever's in the net.
"Obviously Luongo is probably the best in the business and from that perspective it's a benefit going in. But I don't know if we'll play much different with Sanford in rather than Luongo."
Sanford began his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues playing in 73 games over three seasons.
BACK UP THE BEST
He signed as a free agent this summer with the Canucks to essentially sit on the bench backing up one of the best goaltenders in the game.
Yet with the Blues Sanford built a 5-0 record against the Oilers with a 2.31 goals against average. Luongo has a 2.42 goals against average in 16 career games against the Oilers.
"Curtis knew coming into Vancouver what he was getting into and we're really pleased with how he's played," said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault.
"He has a winning record and every game he's been in - even the one in San Jose where I took him out, which was more to rest him than anything else - he's been good."
Last night's game was the last of a four-game road trip for the Canucks.
Sanford has played all four games on the road which started with a 4-2 loss in Los Angeles, then a 3-2 win in Anaheim.
On Thursday, Sanford was pulled in the second period after giving up three goals on 12 shots in a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
He went into the game against the Oilers with 4-2 record this season, a 2.93 goals against average and an .899 save percentage.
"You can't take away from the fact that Luongo is probably the best goalie in the league," said Oilers centre Andrew Cogliano.
"But whether you're playing against another goalie or him, our game plan is the same to try and get a lot of shots and try to pepper this guy a little more, because we're used to playing Luongo.
"But we have to do what we have to do. You can't ignore it because Luongo is such a good goalie, so it might help some guys mentally."
ETHAN ON ICE:
Ethan Moreau skated for the third time yesterday since getting the cast removed from his broken foot. There is still no time line when the Oilers captain will be able to get back in the lineup.
"It's good to be back on the ice," Moreau said.
"I'm still limited a little bit with how explosive I can be and anything quick and agile I still don't have yet.
"I'm just trying to make sure there is no discomfort. If I feel anything that I shouldn't be feeling I stop. But it's positive."