ST. PAUL, Minn. — For Roberto Luongo, it’s been the “Exit” Energy Center. So the decision to start Cory Schneider on Thursday was easy for Alain Vigneault.
No controversy. No coin flip.
“Can’t over-think things,” said the Vancouver Canucks coach. “It’s a lot like the other decisions. I didn’t get into the reasoning behind it and I’m not going to get into this one either.”
One reason is Luongo has been outstanding against the Minnesota Wild in Vancouver and out of sorts here in Minnesota. He blanked the Wild in his last three Rogers Arena starts, and has a home shutout streak against them of 195:23. At the Xcel Energy Center, he’s been pulled from his last three starts and has a 7.00 goals-against average and .873 saves percentage. Luongo has been hooked in five of 14 starts in Minnesota and hasn’t started a game here since Oct. 19, 2010.
Aside from the ongoing crease conundrum, the trade watch and the agent for Schneider expressing concern for his client, the only drama Thursday for the Canucks will be extending a three-game winning streak.
If you want awkward, look at the struggling Calgary Flames, who have lost workhorse Miikka Kiprusoff to injury.
“It’s a reality of the sport,” said Schneider. “It’s a luxury to have depth and there are not too many teams who have that. It’s one of the positives of having Lou and me here as insurance in case something happens.”
Four successive and successful starts by Luongo have increased his trade value and the challenge is for Schneider to be good when called upon — whether it’s one game or a string of them. The Canucks lost two of three games here last season and were 4-2-0 in the season series.
“You never want to be the guy who kind of halts the momentum,” said Schneider. “I put a lot pressure on myself and I’m just going to carry that attitude into the game. You can’t really waste an opportunity. Everyone you get is a big one and I just what to get back in there and get some rhythm.”
Constant preparation has allowed Schneider to not pay attention to what’s happening outside his crease. He didn’t even know his agent, Mike Liut, was vocal about the goaltending situation in Vancouver because he’s played the position.
“I wasn’t even aware of it until somebody brought it to my attention,” said Schneider. “I didn’t tell him to say anything and he didn’t tell me he was going to say anything. He was just asked for his opinion and gave a candid opinion and I don’t know if it’s turned into a big deal because I haven’t been paying attention.
“He was speaking his mind and it’s not different from what everybody else has been saying in the media for the past six months. With Lou, we just really enjoy working together. It takes any possible awkwardness or tension out of the whole situation. It’s been very easy to just do our thing and be very normal around each other.”
Luongo expects he’ll eventually exorcise the Ghost of Minny but his support of Schneider seems genuine.
“As far as I’m concerned, nothing changes for me,” said Luongo. “I’ll just keep working hard and be ready for my turn. I’m sure he’ll give the team a chance to win and be on top of his game, like he always is.”
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