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LUONGO QUIETLY EXCELS FOR CANUCKS
The Vancouver Province illustrates how Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo has, quite happily, been thriving in the shadows this season and has easily been the team’s MVP.
Two turning points are described.
The first was being able to work with Francois Allaire for six weeks during the lockout, which Luongo credits for improving the technical side of his game.
“That’s where it started,” Luongo said. “It was a good foundation for me to build off of.”
Clearly, the past few years of battling Cory Schneider for playing time changed Luongo as well.
“It helped me mentally more than technically,” Luongo said. “It refreshed my mind and put things in perspective.
“Maybe you take things a little bit for granted when you’ve been starting all those years.
“You don’t realize what a privilege it is.
“Right now, I’m just enjoying the game.”
ROY EXPLAINS VARLAMOV’S TRANFORMATION
Speaking of Francois Allaire…
Great insights from Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, via The Denver Post, on the transformation of goaltender Semyon Varlamov. This dates back to a dinner the pair had in Montreal over the summer, which led to private summer tutoring sessions with Allaire in Switzerland.
“I called Francois to ask how it was going, and he told me the first couple days were tough,” Roy recalled. “So I said, ‘Did he work hard?’ And Francois told me, ‘Oh, yeah.’ That was the first sign. Somebody who wants to work hard and is dedicated has a chance to be better. … He was very receptive to make changes. And he was open to trust us.”
The success is not because Varlamov was awed by the aura of a Hall of Famer whispering in his ear.
“That,” Roy said, “lasts for two, maybe three days. If you’re full of (baloney) and say things that make no sense, a player doesn’t care how many games I won as a goalie. If a player thinks, ‘What the heck is he talking about,’ it’s not going to work. You have to give a player reason for confidence.”
WILD’S KOIVU WILL BE READY FOR OLYMPICS
Wild captain Mikko Koivu tells The Pioneer Press there’s no doubt that he’ll be ready to represent Team Finland in the Winter Olympics in February and that he’s “progressing ahead of schedule” from ankle surgery.
“I think we’re in a good spot,” Koivu said. “I don’t want to set any dates (of) when I’ll be playing. I have a goal where I want to play.”
Also: “It always matters (to play before the Olympics, but if not so be it. I think in my situation being off right now, not playing any games, it’s going to be good for me to play some games and practice with the team first off. To play in high-level hockey is going to be good for me after the tournament even if I don’t play any games here. I think it’s good for all of us.”
JAGR NOT WORRIED ABOUT THE CRITICS
The Star-Ledger recalls New Jersey Devils winger Jaromir Jagr’s recent slump, through which he recently broke. Doubters figured he had finally hit the wall.
“Critics. I don’t worry about that. They wanted me to retire 10 years ago. I’m still hanging,” Jagr said.
“To be honest, I had a lot more chances and shots than before. So I didn’t really worry about it. I never did. I told you before, I’m not a goal-scorer. I’m more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer. I don’t really (see) myself scoring a lot of goals. I like to set up goals and create plays. If I score it’s an extra bonus.”
The New York Rangers finally pulled the trigger on the long-awaited Michael Del Zotto trade, dealing him to the Nashville Predators straight up for Kevin Klein in a swap of defencemen.
RED WINGS HOPE PLAYOFF STREAK STAYS ALIVE
The Detroit Free Press points out the Red Wings’ 22-season streak of qualifying for the playoffs could be in danger of ending this season, thanks in large part to a nasty run of injuries. Decisions will need to made prior to the March 5 trade deadline.
“The more we win, the more you can think about being a buyer,” Holland said. “Last year, we were on the bubble, we made a decision to hang on to everybody and felt that if we got healthy, we could make a run. As it worked out, that’s what happened — we got healthy, we played our way in, we got to game seven of round two.”
“The more we win, the more you can think about being a buyer,” GM Ken Holland said. “Last year, we were on the bubble, we made a decision to hang on to everybody and felt that if we got healthy, we could make a run. As it worked out, that’s what happened — we got healthy, we played our way in, we got to game seven of round two.”
More Holland: “We’re hoping we can play our way into being a buyer, or at least stand pat,” Holland said. “But the next 10 games are critical.”
Also of note: Team executive Jimmy Devellano watched Brian Rafalski play in the ECHL last weekend. Rafalski himself has said he’s not sure where he wants this comeback to go and he’ll naturally still need to show he can play at the NHL level after several years away, should that become the end goal.
ST. LOUIS CONTINUES TO POWER LIGHTNING
More deserving praise for Lightning star Martin St. Louis, via The Tampa Tribune.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper : “He’s not Superman, he’s Marty St. Louis. He’s got aspirations and dreams and goals, and not saying he’s given up on that goal (of playing in the Olympics again) yet, because who knows. But he has had that ability to separate his day job from what would have been a part-time job, and he’s put our team ahead and he’s done a hell of a job under what I would consider some tough circumstances for him.”
Teammate Ben Bishop: “It’s crazy. The guy is 38 years old and he’s the fastest guy and has the most energy every night. It’s good for these young guys to see that, because when he comes out and works hard every night, plays well every night, we have nine rookies out watching him out there, it’s good for our team. When you have a chance to play with someone like that, it’s something special.
“Marty does an unbelievable job as our captain, and as our leader. Coming out to practice, he works that hard, and in games he’s working that hard. It’s really fun to watch as a goalie.”
PANTHERS’ JOVO STILL LOVES THE GAME
The Miami Herald describes the countless hours of rehab endured by 37-year-old Florida Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski following extreme hip resurfacing surgery. He played his first game Jan. 4.
“I think his pain has been relieved,’’ said general manager Dale Tallon. “He’s a leader and God bless him. What’s he’s doing is unbelievable. He’s a tough SOB and I really like him. His teammates love him. If anyone would come back from this, it’s Jovo. He’s been terrific.’’
Teammate Brian Campbell: “He cares and wants to win, but he also wants to have fun, and that’s been important to us, too. He loves being in this locker room. Time goes pretty fast and this can go away pretty quick. I think it’s a good lesson for everyone. He loves what this is. This is him, where he strives.’
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