Luongo will likely make his first appearance since winning gold for Canada as the Canucks continue their record string of road games by facing the strengthening Red Wings.
Vancouver’s workhorse goalie finished with a 1.76 goals-against average and five wins in five starts in his home arena at the Olympics - none bigger than the 3-2 overtime victory over the United States in the gold-medal game Sunday.
“You work your whole life for a moment like this and it’s great to get rewarded,” Luongo said. “There are so many thoughts going through my head, thinking about so many people that helped me out along the way.”
One of those was Babcock, who replaced the struggling Brodeur with Luongo after the Canadians’ 5-3 loss to the U.S. in the preliminary round.
While Babcock has tasted similar glory in the NHL, leading the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008, Luongo is still looking for his first trip to a conference finals.
The Canucks (38-22-2) could be contenders for such a spot this season. Even though Andrew Raycroft(notes) gave Luongo a night of rest Tuesday, Vancouver regained the Northwest Division lead with a 4-3 overtime win at Columbus, erasing deficits of 2-0 and 3-2.
“We find a way to get it done in the third in a league that’s very tough to come back,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said after his team improved to a respectable 8-15-1 when trailing after two periods.
The Canucks played eight straight road games before the Olympics as General Motors Place was getting prepared, and they’re now 5-4-0 during a run of 14 straight away from home, the longest streak in NHL history.
Their next stop will present a challenge against a Detroit team that is getting healthier. Babcock said the Red Wings had the “best lineup we’ve dressed all year” for their last game, a 3-2 win over Colorado on Monday.
Detroit (29-21-12) has been slowed by several injuries to the team’s top players, but Johan Franzen(notes) has come back from a torn ACL, totaling three goals in four games since his return, while Tomas Holmstrom(notes) had a goal and two assists against the Avalanche after missing the Olympics due to a knee injury.
Defenseman Andreas Lilja(notes) recovered from post-concussion symptoms to suit up for the first time this season, adding further depth to a roster that’s similar to the one that nearly took Detroit to a second consecutive Cup in 2009.
“We’ve got enough bodies now that we should be a good hockey club,” Babcock said. “We’ve got to decide to be a good hockey club.”
The Red Wings moved into eighth place in the Western Conference with their win over Colorado, but they still have work to do in order to secure their 19th consecutive playoff berth.
“We know there’s not much time left and we need to make a push,” said rookie goalie Jimmy Howard(notes), who has started Detroit’s last nine games. “We feel like all we have to do is get into the playoffs and we’ll be a dangerous team. No one’s going to want to face us.”
This game will feature six players who competed for Sweden at the Olympics as Canucks twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin(notes) are reunited with Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg(notes), Nicklas Lidstrom(notes), Niklas Kronwall(notes) and Franzen.