Safety net lacking in net

ADAM WAZNY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:14 PM ET

The result of his MRI is expected today, but goaltender Roberto Luongo's groin injury has already revealed a soft spot within the Vancouver Canucks' organization.

After Cory Schneider, where exactly is the goaltending depth in the system?

The Manitoba Moose waved bye-bye to Schneider Saturday afternoon, minutes after Luongo stayed down with what looked like a serious left groin injury in the first period in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

NO CONFIDENCE

The best guess on Luongo, who went into the MRI (magnetic resonance image) tube yesterday, is anywhere from 2-4 weeks, so expect the second-year Schneider to be up with the Canucks for at least that amount of time, backing up little-used Curtis Sanford.

Sanford has started in just a handful of Vancouver's last 103 games -- proving there's not a lot of confidence in him -- so it wouldn't surprise anyone to see Schneider, the top 'tender in the AHL based on his 10-1-0 record, 1.37 GAA and .945 save percentage, get a start or two while up with the big club.

And that's it.

There's the Canucks' depth chart -- Luongo, the franchise; Schneider, the future; and Sanford, who's keeping the seat warm for Schneider.

Does three even constitute a 'depth' chart?

Almost forgot. Vancouver has another goaltender under contract.

Julien Ellis, a sixth round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, suffered a high-ankle sprain in training camp and hasn't played a game yet this season. He is in the final year of his deal and will probably not be re-signed at season's end.

The inconsistent Ellis is so far removed from the organization's master plan, he's not even in the Moose media guide. So once again, Manitoba is left to its own devices to find people who can stop the puck.

Karl Goehring is under contract with the Moose, a key free agent pick-up to provide some depth if Schneider wasn't available.

The 30-year-old is a solid alternative; his performance against them last spring was sticking in Manitoba's minds when they were looking for a complement to Schneider.

Goehring is 4-2-0 with a 2.53 GAA this season. Schneider will be with the parent club for the duration of Luongo's recovery period, meaning the net is now his to tend.

Who backs up Goehring? That's where the lack of depth comes in.

UNCERTAINTY

Manitoba dropped a line to the Victoria Salmon Kings (ECHL) yesterday, but not for the goaltender they have under contract.

Jonathan Boutin should be at Moose practice this morning, having out-played Todd Ford in Victoria in the first 17 games. The 23-year-old is 6-3-1-1 with a 2.64 GAA, and is the reigning ECHL goaltender of the week.

Boutin appeared in 38 games in Norfolk last season, but is he the answer if Goehring goes down at some point?

Everyone in Vancouver is worried about the future if Luongo is out for more than month.

That uncertainty will resonate right through to Winnipeg if his MRI result isn't positive, thanks to a shallow pool of netminders in the Canucks' system.


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