The Vancouver Canucks (25-8-5) return home from a perfect 3-0 road trip tonight to play their first game of 2011 at Rogers Arena when they host Northwest Division rival Calgary Flames (18-19-3) in a game that could have implications for the history books.
When the Canucks step out onto the ice at Rogers Arena tonight for the first time in 2011, they will no doubt receive a rousing ovation from the crowd on hand who are not only looking to welcome their hockey heroes back after a week away but to give due acknowledgement to the team that comes into the game as the best in the NHL. The players might want to let that moment soak in for a second but, frankly, they probably won't bother.
One thing the Canucks have preached all throughout their impressive run that has seen them lose just once in regulation in their last 18 outings (15-1-2) is that it's all about business. That is to say they're never satisfied after a win - even if that win was their sixth in a row and extended their unbeaten streak to 13 games (11-0-2) as it did on Monday following a 4-3 victory down in San Jose - and that their focus is always solely on their next game and their next opponent, even if said opponent trails them by 16 points in the standings as the Flames do heading into tonight's divisional match-up.
A business-like approach also means the players won't be preoccupied by such things as streaks and records and milestones, but that doesn't mean fans and media alike will do the same particularly as tonight could be a historic night at Rogers Arena. The Canucks have a chance to earn a point in their 14th straight game which would tie a franchise record previously set from January 26 to February 25, 2003 (10-0-4). The fans at Rogers Arena could also witness the team score its 10,000th National Hockey League goal in franchise history. The Canucks enter the contest just three tallies shy of that milestone marker having scored a total of 9,997 all-time goals since entering the League in 1970.
Witnessing a potential milestone goal may be the focus of the fans tonight, but it won't be for expected starter and December's NHL Second Star of the Month Roberto Luongo who returns to the crease for just his third start in the last 14 days. Despite his limited action recently, Luongo has fared well when called upon as evidenced by that aforementioned Second Star selection. During the month of December, Luongo posted a record of 8-1-1 with a 2.07 GAA, a .922 save percentage and one shutout. In his last two starts, he's surrendered just three combined goals stopping 66 of 69 total shots and comes into the game unbeaten in regulation in his last eight outings (7-0-1).