Canucks Game Day: It's Roberto Luongo's big day, but will Panthers have their way?

Former standout goalie Roberto Luongo will have his name added to the Canucks’ Ring of Honour on Thursday

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Florida Panthers (17-9-2) at Vancouver Canucks (19-9-1)

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When/where: Thursday, 7 p.m., Rogers Arena

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TV: SN Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650

The buzz: Brock Boeser’s redemption and revival season has captured the imagination of the entire NHL because good things are supposed to happen to good people — especially when they’re respectful, humble, put in the work and don’t put themselves above others.

Boeser is tied with Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the league goal lead with 21 in 29 games. He had just 18 goals in two previous seasons riddled with injury, self-doubt and the mental anguish of his father’s failing health and passing.

When the Canucks winger struck for this fifth career hat trick Tuesday in an impressive 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning to stretch the current win streak to four games, it was a win-win. The Canucks’ credo about taking care of their own business — it’s about them and not the opposition — speaks of growth under the direction of head coach Rick Tocchet.

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They’re no longer in awe. Their focus is laser sharp.

“In the past, we’ve maybe worried about our opponent,” said goaltender Thatcher Demko, who made 28 saves against the Lightning, including five off sniper Steven Stamkos. “The confidence level is such that if we play our game, we know we’re going to compete with every team in the league.”

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Brock Boeser scores his second of three goals against the Lightning on Tuesday at Rogers Arena. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

The history: Second meeting of the season. The Canucks blew a 3-1 lead in Florida on Oct. 21, but rallied late with a goal from Andrei Kuzmenko and empty-netter by Boeser to claim a 5-3 victory. Quinn Hughes had five shots and nine attempts and Casey DeSmith made 33 saves. Last season, the Canucks went 0-2-0 against the Panthers, losing 5-1 at home on Dec. 1 and 4-3 in Florida on Jan. 14.

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The hope: The league’s highest-scoring team at 3.83 goals per outing finds early pace and push. And an improving penalty kill keeps using Nils Aman, Dakota Joshua and Teddy Blueger more and doesn’t tax J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson, who logged 1:22 and 0:25 respectively Tuesday during three successful kills.

The fear: The Canucks get caught up in the Roberto Luongo induction into the Ring of Honour hoopla, start slowly and have trouble finding their game, which seems like a stretch. They’ve been playing their most complete games of the season in the latest win streak.

Still, seeing the Luongo ceremony will be something special. Tocchet was an assistant coach in Pittsburgh when Luongo moved on to Florida and he marvelled at the size, skill and durability of one of the great stoppers. From 2003-04 to 2007-08, Luongo logged 72, 75, 76 and 73 games, which is unheard of in today’s goalie-management strategy of rest and recovery to stay fresh and avoid injury.

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Roberto Luongo learned to embrace the challenge of being in the spotlight of a hockey-mad market.

“He was one of the old guys back in the day like (Martin) Brodeur and (Patrick) Roy,” Tocchet said Wednesday following practice. “Very durable and a big guy in the net who was very quiet. Pucks hit him and he swalllowed them up and not a lot of rebounds.

“I’m amazed that those guys played that much. Now, we’re very conscious of load management. When we played Brodeur, I couldn’t even name his backup. Actually, it was Craig Billington, and he would be mad at me if I didn’t remember. In today’s game, you know the backups and they’re good goalies.”

The top guns: The Canucks continue to dominate NHL scoring. Miller was second with 42 points (15-27) heading into league play Wednesday and has seven power-play goals. Hughes had three assists Tuesday and was tied for third with 39 points (9-30) while Pettersson was tied for eighth with 37 points (11-26).

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The wounded: Canucks: Carson Soucy (foot, six to eight weeks, LTIR), Pius Suter (lower body, day-to-day), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion, LTIR). Panthers: Josh Mahura (undisclosed, IR).

The quote: “Brock is just a smart guy and knows the spots to go at. And he has sharpened his defensive game and still wants to get better, but it’s night and day from last year.” — Tocchet on Boeser.

The lineup:




Kuzmenko-Aman-Di Giuseppe



Zadorov- Myers

The prediction: The Canucks push their record when leading after two periods to 17-0-0, strike on the power play and have another solid penalty killing performance to tame the tough Panthers in a 4-2 victory.

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(FAN FORUM: Do you have a specific question for a player? Pass it along to @provincesports and we’ll get it in a future edition.)

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