Luongo set to return, Nash sits

ITEM: Luongo poised to return while Nash sits out

The Vancouver Canucks are about to get their captain back. The Columbus Blue Jackets will have to make do without theirs for a little while longer.

In Vancouver, goaltender Roberto Luongo says he’s back at full strength after missing nearly two months with a groin injury.

“It’s pain free. I wouldn’t be on the ice if I wasn’t,” Luongo told the Canadian Press on Monday after practicing with his teammates. “That’s done with as far as I’m concerned. I’m ready to go and back to 100 per cent.”

The Canucks captain was 11-5-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average and five shutouts – three coming in consecutive home wins over Nashville, Phoenix and Minnesota – before being injured after playing less than five minutes versus Pittsburgh on Nov. 22.

Despite the time missed, Luongo, a Montreal native, earned a spot on the Western Conference for this season’s All-Star Game to be played in his hometown.

“It would be nice because it’s in my hometown,” Luongo said. “But my main priority is the Vancouver Canucks and making sure that I give my full attention to this team and making sure when I start playing, I’m at 100 per cent.”

The Canucks have gone 9-11-3 in Luongo’s absence, using journeymen Jason LaBarbera and Curtis Sanford and rookie Cory Schneider. Still, Vancouver is only five points behind first-place Calgary in the Northwest Division.

Meanwhile, in Columbus, captain Rick Nash was placed on injured reserve on Monday with the dreaded “lower-body” injury. His stint was retroactive to Jan. 6, meaning he could return on Wednesday.

A four-time All-Star, Nash leads the Blue Jackets with 17 goals and 22 in 40 games this season. He also has a team-high four game-winning goals.

Columbus is still seeking its first playoff berth in franchise history, having entered the NHL in 2000. But Nash, selected first overall in 2002, might be one of the least intimidating players out there.

He’s 6-foot-4 and nearly 220 pounds, but has one 40-goal season to his name and has never had more than 95 penalty minutes. He’s also been in just three fights in 403 NHL games.

Way to go, Mr. Softee!

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