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Roberto Luongo struggled at the beginning of last season for Vancouver before going on an outstanding run. Now struggling early again this season, the Canucks captain has a chance for a boost in a matchup with the disappointing Chicago Blackhawks.
After getting a game off, Luongo is expected to be back in net on Sunday night when Vancouver visits the Blackhawks in new coach Joel Quenneville's home debut.
Luongo was given the night off in a 5-2 loss to Buffalo on Friday after he allowed 12 goals in his last three starts following a shutout of Calgary in the season opener. Curtis Sanford, Luongo's replacement, didn't fare much better in his first start of the season, giving up three goals in the first 13:10.
"Anytime you spot a team ... a three-goal lead right off the bat, you're obviously not giving yourself a chance to win," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
Having dropped two of three after opening a six-game road trip with a win over the Flames, Vancouver (3-2-0) is likely to turn back to Luongo. He went through a similar start last season, going 1-2-0 with a 4.21 goals-against average in his first three games before he went 8-6-1 with a 2.13 GAA in his next 15 contests.
If he starts against Chicago (1-2-2), Luongo will be facing a team arguably in disarray after it fired coach Denis Savard four games into the season.
Luongo is also 7-5-0 with one tie and a 2.14 GAA in 13 career starts against the Blackhawks. He'll also need some offensive support with the Canucks having scored two goals or less in two of their last three games, both losses.
Vancouver winger Daniel Sedin has been held without a point in three straight games after tallying two goals and three assists in his first two. He has not scored a goal in 14 career games at Chicago, but has nine assists.
The Blackhawks got two goals and an assist from reigning rookie of the year Patrick Kane in Quenneville's debut, but lost 4-3 in a shootout at St. Louis on Saturday.
Still, Quenneville was happy to be back behind the bench.
"It was good." Quenneville said. "My voice kept going on and off all night but it was great to be back there."
Quenneville was the Blues' coach from 1996-2004 season, going 307-191-18 with 77 ties. He has become the 37th coach in Blackhawks history, leading a team that has missed the playoffs in nine of its last 10 seasons but entered this season with high expectations.
Chicago went 40-34-8 behind young stars like Kane and Jonathan Toews last season, giving Quenneville a solid base to work with. Kane now has three goals and two assists this season.
Quenneville said he doesn't plan to make drastic changes, and he isn't offering many hints on how the rotation will play out between goaltenders Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet. Khabibulin started on Saturday, and he gave up the tying goal with 14 seconds left in regulation
Khabibulin is 6-14-1 with two ties and a 3.28 GAA in 24 games versus the Canucks, while Huet has gone 0-2-0 with one tie and a 2.54 GAA in five games against them.
Vancouver went 3-1-0 against Chicago last season.