Canucks sticking with Schneider in critical Game 4
RANDY SPORTAK, QMI AGENCY
|Vancouver Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider attends practice for Game 4 of their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal hockey playoff against the Los Angeles Kings at the Kings' practice facility in El Segundo, California April 17, 2012. (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)
LOS ANGELES - It's the biggest game of the season for the Vancouver Canucks and coach Alain Vigneault won't turn to Canada's 2010 gold-medal goalie, Roberto Luongo.
Facing a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks have decided to start Cory Schneider in net for Wednesday's critical Game 4 of their opening-round playoff series.
Vigneault said, "not really" when asked if would explain why he made that decision while his team was concluding its morning skate at the Staples Center.
"I told both guys, and, uh, it is what it is," Vigneault said. "Goaltending has not been the issue for us this year and in this series. We've had great goaltending so whatever decision I made would have been the right one. Without getting into the specifics of why Cory is playing tonight, I am confident he'll have a good game and the guys will play real hard in front of him."
Goaltending hasn't been the club's Achilles heel in these playoffs. The lack of offensive production has been the biggest issue.
Luongo started the first two games of the series against the No. 8 seed Kings, a pair of 4-2 defeats. The regular-season champions turned to Schneider, who is regarded as one of the best backups in the league, in Game 3, but he couldn't turn their fortunes in a 1-0 loss.
"I was expecting either (goalie to start)," Schneider said. "I think we've got to a point where nothing surprises us and we're comfortable either guy. I'll be ready for it."
Luongo doesn't talk to the media on game days.
The decision to stick with Schneider is somewhat of a surprise because of the optics.
Luongo is in the second season of a 12-year, $64-million contract, so to go with Schneider, who is a potential restricted free agent, sure looks like a potential changing of the guard.
The thinking has long been Schneider's skill would make him trade bait for a huge return. But it's possible the Canucks are debating keeping the younger netminder and trying to deal away Luongo.
The most likely destinations would appear to be the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Right now, though, the Canucks are facing more pressing issues -- potentially seeing their championship quest come to a crashing halt in the opening round.
They'll likely receive a boost since Daniel Sedin appears ready to play for the first time since suffering a concussion March 21.
Sedin, who led the team with 30 goals in the regular season, said "absolutely" when asked whether he expects to play, but admitted he won't know for sure until puck drop.
"If I feel good tonight, that's the deciding factor," he said.
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak