VANCOUVER – Roberto Luongo’s long goodbye from the Vancouver Canucks took yet another twist Wednesday as the team revealed Cory Schneider has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
As a result, Luongo will start Vancouver’s final home regular-season game Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks—after many fans and media types wondered whether he had already played his last game at Rogers Arena.
“Hopefully, he’ll be back soon,” said Luongo. “And, in the meantime, it’s my job to play the way he’s been playing.”
Schneider was long ago anointed as the playoff starter when he displaced Luongo as Vancouver’s No. 1 netminder in the 2011-12 post-season.
Luongo’s start comes as the Canucks are preparing for the playoffs after having clinched the Northwest Division title.
The former Canucks captain is expected to leave Vancouver via trade or contract buyout in the off-season. He was expected to be traded last summer after Schneider displaced him as the starter in the playoffs, and the Canucks did not get the deal they wanted at the trading deadline, either.
Schneider, a 27-year-old Marblehead, Mass., native played in Vancouver’s past two games as the Canucks clinched a playoff spot and then their fifth straight Northwest Division title with wins over Chicago and Detroit.
He has posted a 17-9-4 record this season with a 2.11 goals-against average.
While fans get at least one opportunity to bid Luongo adieu in an otherwise meaningless home finale, since it’s already known the Canucks will have the third playoff seed in the Western Conference, the former No. 1 netminder was not ready to get sentimental.
“From (the fans’ side) if they want to see it that way, well so be it,” said Luongo. “But, for me, obviously, I’m focused on playing. We’ve got the Ducks here to finish the year and, obviously, the playoffs—which is the most important thing—are around the corner.
“I want to make sure that, for myself included, we’re ready to get that going.”
Still, Luongo, who sports a 9-4-record and a 2.34 goals-against average, could not help but marvel as his likely final season in Vancouver took another unexpected turn.
“It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?” he said. “That being said, it seems we’ve still got a little ways to go before it’s over. So we’re going to enjoy it for the time being and see where (the post-season) takes us.”
Accordingly, Luongo is savouring ever chance he gets to make another start with the team for which he has toiled since 2005-06 and helped reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2010-11.
“You cherish (the starts), you know?” he said. “Especially, when (the days with the Canucks) are numbered, right?”
The Canucks called up Joe Cannata from the AHL’s Chicago Wolves to back up Luongo against the Ducks. Coach Alain Vigneault said Schneider was injured in Monday’s win over Chicago, which he completed without any apparent difficulties.
But the coach was not offering any information on the nature of his injury.
“He’s got the body injury that’s day-to-day,” said Vigneault, drawing guffaws.
The coach indicated that there was no pre-playoff subterfuge involved in Schneider’s absence.
“If he was healthy, he’d be practising. He’s got an injury that, obviously, at this time, we’re not willing to disclose.”
Luongo’s presence gives the Canucks two goaltenders capable of starting in the playoffs. Was Vigneault happy that the anticipated trade did not occur?
“Louie’s playing (Thursday),” said Vigneault. “It’s got nothing to do with the non-trade.”
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said Luongo’s presence eases concerns players might have about Schneider’s health woes heading into the playoffs.
“Lots of teams would have been in a bad spot right now,” said Sedin. “But we’re confident in Lou.”
Notes_The Ducks are also in playoff-preparation mode after having clinched the Pacific Division title and the Western Conference’s second seed. … Injured Canucks defencemen Kevin Bieksa (lower-body) and Keith Ballard (back) returned to practice Wednesday, but will not play against the Ducks. Bieksa has missed four games while Ballard has sat out one.Both are close to returning. … Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, the NHL’s oldest player at 42, is slated to receive a rare rest against the Canucks. Centre Saku Koivu, 38, will also get the night off.