May 1, 2013
Canucks turn to Roberto Luongo for Game 1 against Sharks
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - Supplanted from the No. 1 role in last year’s playoffs.
Expected to be traded in the off-season and again at the trade deadline.
So of course Roberto Luongo will start in goal when the Vancouver Canucks open their playoff series with the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night.
With Cory Schneider not 100% healthy from the undisclosed injury that kept him out of action in the final week of the season, the Canucks are turning to the veteran Luongo. It’s just the latest twist in the ongoing saga.
“It’s kind of funny I’m in this situation, but, at the same time, I’m not surprised,” Luongo said after the morning skate in preparation of the opener at Rogers Arena.
“The way things have been going the last year, I didn’t rule it out, for sure. It’s been a fun ride and it’s only going to get better from here on out.”
Schneider, who practised with the team each of the last three days, including the morning skate, won’t even be the backup netminder. Joe Cannata will serve as caddy.
“He’s just not healthy enough right now,” Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said of Schneider.
It’s not like the Canucks are turning to a raw rookie. Luongo has been a NHL starter for a decade. He’s been the man in Vancouver since 2006-07 and backstopped Canada to gold at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
“I don’t think for our group, having Roberto in goal is a concern,” Vigneault said. “He’s a pretty good goalie. He’s been through a lot of battles. He’s played some real solid hockey for us. Tonight, he’s playing and I’m sure he’s looking forward to the opportunity.”
Luongo started the final two regular season games, the finale a 7-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers that was tied at two apiece with seven minutes remaining.
“It’s already erased. It’s long gone, man,” he said of that game. “This is the playoffs. Everybody starts off at zeros and away we go.”
Yes, even he was baffled at all that’s taken place since he lost the top job in last year’s opening-round playoff series defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.
“Things happen and you try to figure out why. Sometimes you don’t understand it, but at the end of the day, we’re all playing hockey and all playing in the NHL. I’m excited at this opportunity,” Luongo said.
Excited and has learned about himself during the process.
“I view a lot of things differently now. I handle things differently than I have. I’m better at facing adversity. I think once you’ve been through it many times, you find it easier to pick yourself back up and overcome it and move on,” he said. “There’s where I am right now.”
In other news, centre Ryan Kesler was the lone Canucks player who didn’t partake in the optional morning skate, and with his injury history it raised the question whether he’s OK.
Vigneault said Kesler will indeed play Wednesday.
“We’ve got him locked up on the back,” he said. “We’re feeding him raw meat. The Beast will be ready tonight.”
On Twitter: @SunRandySportak