Luongo could be right back in net Tuesday night as the Canucks resume the longest road stretch in NHL history against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Canucks (37-22-2) entered the two-week break tied for the Northwest Division lead, having split the first eight games of a 14-game stretch away from home. Necessitated by Vancouver’s hosting of and cleaning up after the Winter Games, they don’t play at GM Place again until March 13.
Luongo should be in for a tremendous ovation when the Canucks return home after helping Canada win its eighth gold medal in hockey Sunday. He made 34 saves in the 3-2 overtime victory over the United States.
“It’s unreal,” Luongo told the team’s official Web site. “You work hard your whole life for something like this and it’s nice to get rewarded. This medal’s not only for myself, but for Canada and obviously the people in Vancouver and the fans that have supported me since I first got here.”
Luongo was a big reason why Canada took gold, winning all five starts with a 1.76 goals-against average. He replaced Martin Brodeur(notes) in net following a 5-3 loss to the United States in the group phase Feb. 21.
Kesler, who scored goals for the United States in both games against Canada, did not see the silver medal as much of a consolation.
“He’s a teammate, but this one stings, it’s going to take a couple of weeks,” Kesler said about Luongo after the loss.
Vancouver joins Anaheim as the only teams to have players that earned all three medals. Sami Salo(notes) got the bronze with Finland, which beat Slovakia and Salo’s Canucks teammate Pavol Demitra(notes) 5-3 on Saturday.
Demitra’s 10 points were the most in the Olympics, and he was named to the tournament’s All-Star team.
It’s unclear if any of those Olympians will be rested, but coach Alain Vigneault might start Luongo in an attempt to carry over his goaltender’s momentum from the Winter Games. Luongo struggled before the break, going 2-3-0 with a 3.10 GAA in his last five starts and getting pulled after allowing five goals in a 6-2 loss to Minnesota on Feb. 14.
Kesler is looking to pick up where he left off before the break. The center is tied with Daniel Sedin(notes) for second on the team with 54 points - five shy of his career high set last season. The two players trail Henrik Sedin, whose 80 points rank second in the league.
The Canucks have taken two of three from the Blue Jackets this season, winning 4-3 in the last meeting Feb. 12 at Columbus. Kesler set up Mikael Samuelsson(notes) for the winner midway through the third period as Vancouver ended a three-game skid at Nationwide Arena.
Nash, Columbus’ leader with 28 goals and 57 points, had two goals and three assists in the tournament. That strong play was a continuation of his performance leading into the Olympics, as he carried a seven-game point streak - one shy of his career high - into the break.
Nash, who has goals in four straight games, had an eight-game point streak from Nov. 20-Dec. 6, 2003.
The left wing has four goals and three assists during the current run and scored against the Canucks last month. That gave him five goals and 10 assists in the last eight meetings.