Canucks' Luongo or Schneider debate going Wild
Notebook: 'We're not there yet,' Vancouver coach says of next goaltending decision
EDMONTON — For Roberto Luongo, the X in Xcel Energy Center has meant exit, or rather early exit.
The home of the Minnesota Wild has been Luongo's very own house of horrors. He's been pulled in his last three starts there and his stats in the building are off-the-charts bad: a record of 3-9-1 with a 3.56 goals-against average and a .873 save percentage.
So it makes perfect sense for Cory Schneider to get his first start in 11 days when the Canucks meet the Wild on Thursday night.
Right, Alain Vigneault?
"We're not there yet," the Canuck coach said as the team left Edmonton on Tuesday bound for the Twin Cities.
He indicated he'll make that call on Wednesday, likely after the team practises in Minnesota.
Luongo has not started a game in Minnesota since Oct. 19, 2010, when he was pulled after two periods in a 6-2 loss.
Luongo made his fourth straight start in Monday night's 3-2 overtime win in Edmonton and ranks third in the NHL with a 1.53 GAA and a .940 save percentage.
Schneider's inactivity has prompted considerable debate about the team's goaltending, which general Mike Gillis addressed Tuesday in his weekly appearance on Team 1040.
"These are very unique circumstances," said Gillis, who acknowledged he spoke with Schneider's agent, Mike Liut, on Monday. "(Cory) knows our level of commitment to him. He knows how much we believe in him. And I know when he gets in the nets next, he's not going to want to give it up. Just like Roberto.
"I don't think it's an issue at all inside our dressing room or with our team. We are completely conscious of ice time and how players are utilized and Cory is no different. But we have to win hockey games. We don't have the luxury of. . . people's feelings, as opposed to wins. We don't have that luxury."
SCOUTING MISSION: Apparently, it was merely the old college spirit Gillis was feeling when he ignited a media firestorm Sunday by showing up at the Washington Capitals' game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Gillis said he and assistant Laurence Gilman are in the east to scout a couple of college players and are taking the opportunity to also see some of the top NHL teams in the Eastern Conference.
The sighting of Gillis in Washington sparked a flurry of speculative stories about the potential trade of Luongo to the Capitals. Washington GM George McPhee declared he had no interest on Luongo's $64-million contract and had had no trade discussions with Gillis.
Gillis later called McPhee to apologize for any problems his appearance in Washington caused the Capitals.
“People went crazy when we were in the press box there,” Gillis said. “George's team is having a slow start and I just wanted to make sure he knew we were only there to catch a game. I think it was just a courtesy to say to him we hope we didn't cause any problems for him; he's got a couple of young goalies there that they're trying to get on track. He was very appreciative of the call.”
Of the media reaction to his visit, Gillis said: “Yeah, I was a little bit surprised. I was here looking at some college players and seeing some of the top teams in the east play, so we can get a rationale on how our team stacks up against them and some of the hurdles we're facing with our players that are off to slow starts.”
SEDINS STRUGGLE: Two of those players having slow starts are the Sedins, who have looked out of sorts for much of the season. Henrik is still looking for his first goal and has only 11 shots in Vancouver's first nine games. That's the same number as Dale Weise.
Weise, Chris Higgins, Jordan Schroeder, Manny Malhotra and Andrew Ebbett are the other Canuck forwards still without a goal this season. Keith Ballard is the only Vancouver defenceman without a goal.
Gillis acknowledged Sedins have started slowly but he's not worried, saying complexity of their game requires a little more time to fine tune.
POWER OUTAGE; The Canucks have won three straight and are in their familiar perch atop the Northwest Division standings despite special teams that have struggled.
As of Tuesday, their penalty-kill ranked 21st in the NHL and their power play was 18th. The Vancouver power play went 0-for-4 versus the Oilers on Monday night and also surrendered a shorthanded goal. The Canucks have only scored in one of their last 23 power-play opportunities.
"A good power play knows when the shots are coming and are hungry for rebounds," said Daniel Sedin. "Right now we are kind of more waiting for the pass and not being at the right spot when the shots are taken. That's the one thing we can be better at."
DRESSING THE PART: Imagine a bunch of professional hockey players dressed up as millionaires. . .
The Canucks haven't quite made it official, but they will be wearing Vancouver Millionaires replica jerseys when they play host to the Detroit Red Wings on March 16.
As part of a celebration of 100 years of hockey on the West Coast, the Canucks are wearing the Vancouver Millionaires “V” patch on their sweaters for select home games this season. But they'll go with the full Millionaires replica jersey on March 16.
The Vancouver Millionaires played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1912 through 1922. The Millionaires won the Stanley Cup in 1915 against the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey Association, which later became the NHL.
(with file from Iain MacIntyre).
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