Canuck weakness exposed

BOB MACKIN, 24 HOURS VANCOUVER

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

Roberto Luongo could return on Saturday night in Edmonton.

The words "possibly" and "maybe" are also being bandied about. So might the word "relief."

The Vancouver Canucks' meal ticket suffered a groin injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins Nov. 22. The official word was "week to week" but his agent said it could be a month.

In the meantime, backup Curtis Sanford and rookie Cory Schneider have brought to mind other words beginning with their initials, as in Can't Save and Canucks Scared.

The Canucks have a goaltending problem because neither of them is worthy of carrying this team on his shoulders should Luongo's rehab go beyond this weekend or should Luongo go down with a worse ailment later in the season. General Manager Mike Gillis' options would then be limited: Trade for an experienced veteran No. 1 goalie or wave the white flag and forego the playoffs.

This is a situation the Canucks created for themselves by overplaying Luongo and underplaying Sanford. Hustling rookie Schneider to the forefront so quickly could turn him into the the 21st century version of Troy Gamble or Corey Schwab. His 0-for-3 performance in the Sunday shootout on three similar shots showed a need for more seasoning. The baptism of fire can backfire.

What else can the Canucks do, however, than ice Luongo more than they need to? There is no other member of the team who inspires Canucks' fans to watch televised games (free or otherwise), buy tickets and merchandise and donate to causes. No wonder he was made the captain.

This is a problem that will continue until Gillis finds a solid front-liner who can increase goal production and/or a blue line sniper who can contribute. One or both would remove the pressure from Luongo and give the team a chance to become a contender.


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