VANCOUVER – There was no coin Monday, real or imagined, as Vancouver Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Roberto Luongo as his starter for Tuesday’s home date with the Minnesota Wild.
Luongo had already spilled the beans minutes earlier in the Canuck dressing room so it was no surprise. All that was required was an explanation.
“It’s my turn,” said Luongo, who watched Cory Schneider play the last two games. “I don’t try to figure it out. I just play goal when I’m told. It’s your job to try and find out the reasoning and all that stuff. My job is to stop the puck.”
So, naturally we did try to find out. Vigneault was in a jocular mood – that’s what a five-game win streak will do – and made no attempt to be serious.
“I told Roberto the other day when he was on After Hours to say some good things about your coach and you might play next game,” Vigneault joked. “It’s because he said a lot of good things about me. Or it might have been Francois Allaire. I don’t know…”
Allaire is Luongo’s personal coach and the two worked extensively during the lockout. Luongo is off to a sublime start and is undefeated this season in regulation at 3-0-2. Prior to Monday’s slate of six games, he stood second in the league in both goals against average (1.53) and save percentage (.940).
This will be Luongo’s sixth start and he has yet to surrender more than two goals in any of them, excluding shootouts. And here’s another juicy factoid: He has three consecutive shutouts against the Wild on home ice, stopping 90 of 90 shots.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics of why Louie is playing the next game,” Vigneault added. “I haven’t done that so far this year on any of them and I’m not going to start now. The important thing is we have two good goaltenders and there is no wrong answer and Louie is going Tuesday.”
BOOTH REVIEW: Injured winger David Booth skated hard Monday for the entire 60-minute team practice but getting a straight answer from him on his rehab was even harder. Booth has been out since the first day of training camp, Jan. 13, when he hurt his groin during on-ice testing.
Here’s a mini-QA between Booth and various Vancouver hockey reporters…
Q: Where are you at?
A: I feel better, I guess. That’s all I’m allowed to say.
Q: Are you closer?
A: I think progress is the word. Every day is progress.
Q: Are you confident it’s not something serious?
A: Yeah, yeah.
Q: Have you seen any specialists?
A: I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.
Q: Is turning, pivoting and reaching for the puck the next challenge?
A: Yes, that’s correct.
KESS CLOSER: Centre Ryan Kesler was again taking draws in practice Monday, further testing his surgically repaired left shoulder and wrist. He said faceoffs were not a problem but then qualified his answer, almost going Allen Iverson in the process. (Assistant coach Darryl Williams was the one dropping the puck.)
“It’s practice,” Kesler explained. “It’s not a real linesmen or anything. Nothing against Willy but taking faceoffs feel fine.”
So does most of Kesler’s game.
“Obviously it’s inching closer,” he said. “There is still no timeline. It’s been very exciting being with the guys and being involved again. I’m happy where I’m at. Shooting is not a problem. I just think (it’s a matter of) feeling comfortable out there and just being confident. When I’m ready, I’ll let them know.”
NO MANNY: Struggling fourth line centre Manny Malhotra was conspicuous by his absence at Monday’s practice. According to Vigneault, Malhotra took “a personal day.” Vigneault said his availability for the Wild game would be made known Tuesday.
Malhotra has no points in nine appearances and is minus-3 while averaging 11:07 of ice time. He remains very strong in the faceoff circle with a 65.3 per cent efficiecny rating.
PIE-EYED: Rookie Jordan Schroeder, who netted his first two career goals in Saturday’s 5-1 romp over the Calgary Flames, fell for the old ‘shaving cream pie’ in the face during Sunday’s team skills competition. Apparently he is not a student of Canuck history. He was unaware of the tradition.
“I had no idea,” Schroeder laughed. “I never heard about it.”
As for his first goal, he admitted it was more relief than excitement.
“I mean, obviously I was really excited but I know that’s kind of my job,” he explained. “I have to be able to produce. Yeah, I have the puck. I am going to keep a close watch on it and bring it home at the end of the year and probably frame it. The reaction I got was good. A lot of texts and voicemails congratulating me and wishing me nothing but the best. It was great support.”
Schroeder has four points and is a plus-4 in nine games as a Canuck.
QUOTABLE: “Jordan has done enough to play the next game. He’s been very consistent, in our opinion, at both ends of the rink. If he continues to play the way he has, he is making some decisions hard for us.” – Vigneault on whether Schroeder has shown enough to stay when Kesler returns.