ST. PAUL, Minn. — It’s just like old times for Cory Schneider, who gets to play Thursday night in Minnesota because Roberto Luongo never wins here.
Of course, nobody thought Schneider’s “new” job with the Vancouver Canucks would be like his old one.
The goaltender, who was supposed to be the National Hockey League team’s No. 1 netminder this season, will start for the first time in 11 days when Schneider takes back the crease against the Minnesota Wild.
“Every game is big this year and it hasn’t been that different from the past few years where I might not have played in a little while and I had to jump in and be effective,” Schneider said Wednesday after practice. “I’ve got to carry that attitude for tomorrow night’s game. You can’t really waste an opportunity. Every opportunity you get is a big one. I just want to get back in there and try to get in some kind of rhythm.”
Schneider appeared to be getting into a rhythm when he was dropped in favour of Luongo after losing 4-1 to the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 27.
Schneider was awful in the NHL season-opener eight days earlier.
But after surrendering five goals in 14 shots in a 7-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Schneider went 2-1 in his next three starts while posting a goals-against average of 1.95 and save rate of .931.
But that wasn’t good enough to keep out Luongo, who is 3-0-2 this season and among league leaders with a 1.53 GAA and .940 save percentage.
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault’s decision to go back to Schneider tonight is far less surprising than his choice the last four games of Luongo because the latter has been hooked from his last three starts in Minnesota while posting a 7.68 average.
“As far as I’m concerned, nothing changes for me,” Luongo said. “Just keep working hard and be ready when it’s my turn.
“(Cory) is the type of guy who gets ready to play, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if it’s been four games, two games or 10, he’s the type of guy who works hard in practice and when you do that you tend to be ready when it’s your turn to play.”
Reminded of the gap between starts for Schneider, Vigneault said: “It’s no different than what he’s done in the past. It’s the exact same scenario.”
Exactly. No one expected this.
“I felt it was getting there,” Schneider said of his form before losing the net to Luongo. “I try to carry that from the game into the practices. You just have to pretend it hasn’t been a week-and-a-half, only a night or two.”
ICE CHIPS: Recovering from wrist and shoulder surgeries, Ryan Kesler had his second full practice with the Canucks but still has no target for a return to playing ... The practice in suburban Mendota Heights was especially rigorous. It followed a travel day Tuesday and the Canucks’ rookie dinner that night ... Chris Tanev, who scored the overtime winner Monday in Edmonton, got a big chunk of the dinner tab. “I came back to Earth in a hurry,” he said. ... Canucks will be on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday when they host the Calgary Flames at 7 p.m.
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