San Jose Sharks at Vancouver Canucks
Rogers Arena, 7:30 p.m.
Somewhere not too far down the line, people are going to read about the Vancouver Canucks’ 2013 campaign and there will be plenty of “That didn’t really happen, did it?”
Roberto Luongo, the goaltender who supposedly played his final game in Canuck colours in the playoffs last spring and was about to be traded at various points this year, is getting the start Wednesday for Game 1 of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal versus the San Jose Sharks.
Cory Schneider’s mysterious ailment that kept him out of the final two regular season games will leave him sidelined for at least the opener of the playoffs, even though he practised two straight days and took the morning skate Wednesday. Call-up Joe Cannata will be Luongo’s back-up, coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday morning.
“The way things have been going the last year, I didn’t rule it out for sure,” Luongo said when asked if he ever thought he’d be getting a playoff start with the Canucks this season. “Right now, my focus is totally on this game and making sure we put our best effort out on the ice, starting with myself.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said he hinted to Luongo Tuesday that Schneider might not be ready to play, and Luongo said he found out for certain Wednesday morning.
Schneider was saying Tuesday after practice that “I’d love to play, no matter what.” As per standard operating practice in the NHL this time of year, what exactly is ailing Schneider hasn’t been released.
He wasn’t permitted to speak to the media Wednesday; the Canucks stopped making goalies other than their starter available on game day this season, due to all the questions about Luongo being traded through the campaign.
“He’s progressing,” said Luongo, “but obviously the decision was made that it would be best to rest him for a couple of more days.
“It’s an opportunity. I’m excited for it. I’m excited to play some playoff hockey again.”
Vigneault said: “When we talked to Schneids prior to practice, it was a pretty easy decision to make. He’s just not healthy enough right now.”
Schneider went 17-9-4 this season, with a 2.11 goals against and a .927 save percentage. Luongo was 9-6-3, with a 2.56 goals against and a .907 save percentage.
Luongo’s numbers took a hit with the regular season finale, as Vigneault let him go the distance in a 7-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
“The Edmonton game, I really felt like I had my ‘A’ game for 55 minutes and then we all saw what happened,” said Luongo. “To me, I build off of that. I had some good practices this week and a really sharp morning skate.
“It’s playoff hockey, man.”
The goaltending situation overshadowed the fact that Ryan Kesler didn’t take the morning skate Wednesday. The Canucks were saying that he would play against the Sharks in Game 1.
“He’s in the back. We’ve got him locked up in the back. We’re giving him raw meat. The Beast will be ready tonight,” Vigneault joked.