Goalie Roberto Luongo during the Vancouver Canucks practice on Thursday at Rogers Arena. Luongo will again get the start in Game 2 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series on Friday against the visiting San Jose Sharks.
Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG
VANCOUVER — There was no need Thursday to wait for an announcement on the Vancouver Canucks' starting netminder for Game 2 Friday of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
When Cory Schneider failed to appear for a full team practice, and minor-league goalie Joe Cannata did, it quickly became evident that Roberto Luongo would again be the man for Game 2 against the San Jose Sharks (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1040). The Canucks trail the best-of-seven series 1-0 after dropping Wednesday's curtain-raiser 3-1.
The question now, of course, is whether Schneider will be back at all in the series. It seems apparent he has suffered some sort of his setback to his mysterious “body” injury — is it a groin? — after skating for four days and practising with the team for three.
“You can interpret what you want at this time,” Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault stated cryptically. “Cory is day-to-day.”
Luongo, who is either sworn to secrecy or truly doesn't know, had this to say on Schneider's status: “I'm not too sure what's going on with that. So I can't really give you guys anything. I don't know what's going on. I'm going to focus on playing every game until I'm told otherwise.”
Schneider has been day-to-day for 10 days now and has not been made available to reporters since Tuesday when he declared that he'd “like to play.”
He is the last Canucks netminder to win a playoff start, Game 4 in Los Angeles last April. Luongo has lost five straight playoff starts dating back to Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The Canucks, as a team, are 1-7 in their last eight playoff games, 2-9 in their last 11 and have dropped an alarming five straight at Rogers Arena.
Luongo, who was exceptional in the first period of Wednesday's loss, wound up allowing two goals on seven shots in the decisive third.
“I felt good during the game and made some good saves, but when you don't get a 'W' it's tough to be satisfied with yourself,” Luongo said Thursday. “So you're always trying to look at things you might have done better and maybe make one or two extra saves. But, at the same time, you don't want to beat yourself up over it too much. You want to start focusing on the next one.”
Vigneault shook up three of his four lines at practice Thursday, most notably moving Ryan Kesler from centre to right wing on a line with Derek Roy and Chris Higgins. Max Lapierre was bumped up to the third unit to centre for Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen while Zack Kassian was dropped to the fourth line with Andrew Ebbett and Dale Weise.
“Just things that we wanted to look at again on our end,” Vigneault said, clearly not in the mood to acknowledge anything. “We'll put things together tomorrow morning and see what happens tomorrow night.”
Vigneault rarely wastes a practice just to flummox the opposition coach. The line of Higgins-Roy-Kesler was outstanding against the Chicago Blackhawks and it seems apparent Vigneault is seeking more of the same.
“I need more from my whole team,” responded Vigneault. “There is no doubt that all our players understand we have to get better and that we're going to get better.”
Kesler, a difference maker when healthy, would not concede he was feeling ill during Game 1 even though he lacked his usual jump.
“I was good enough to play, I suited up,” he said.
Asked if he felt better Thursday morning than he did Wednesday night, he replied: “I'm upright, ain't I? I'm still kicking, so I'm good.”
He is also good, and ready, to skate on right wing, assuming Vigneault follows through on the expected plan.
“I think we all know that it changes day-to-day so I'll play where ever they put me,” Kesler said. “My job is to help the team win just like everyone else. I think Chris and Derek and I have pretty good chemistry, but who knows? I could be back at centre. We'll see.”
Vigneault, meanwhile, was in a message-sending mood to the officials. The Canucks were whipped in the faceoff circle in Game 1 — winning just 30 of 70 draws — and he accused the Sharks of, well, bending the rules.
“They cheat and they're allowed to cheat,” stated the Canucks coach. “It makes it more challenging.”
Presumably the Canucks centres could “cheat” in a similar fashion, although that was a topic Vigneault carefully avoided.
“I couldn't answer that question,” he said.
Of course not. It's playoffs.
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks announced Thursday that 2012 first-round pick Brendan Gaunce has joined their taxi squad skating in Vancouver. Gaunce's Belleville Bulls were eliminated Monday from the OHL playoffs. Gaunce, the 19-year-old Bulls' captain, had 22 points in 17 playoff games ... The team also announced the signing of 2011 seventh-round pick Henrik Tommernes, a left-side defenceman from Karlstad, Sweden. Tommernes is 22 and listed at 6-0 and 185 pounds.
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