VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks will have Cory Schneider in goal for their final road game of the regular season.
The backup netminder will start Thursday’s game in Calgary after Roberto Luongo was pulled early in the second period of Vancouver’s 5-4 comeback shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault declined to explain his decision following practice Wednesday prior to the team’s flight to Calgary.
Luongo was booed after getting the hook, while Schneider received a loud cheer from the crowd and did not allow a goal while facing a modest nine shots over the final 33 minutes. Vigneault chalked up the fan reaction to Luongo’s departure to the usual life of a goaltender.
“That the nature of the position,” Vigneault said. “When things don’t go well, usually—not usually but sometimes—the fingers point at the goaltender or the head coach. … I remember (some) years back in Montreal when Patrick Roy was the goaltender there. They had billboards across the city to have him traded. I guess now they’re having billboards across the city to bring him back (in a management or coaching role). That’s just the nature of the position. If you want to be a goaltender, you have to be real strong mentally.
“It’s a position that has a lot of pressure that comes with it, and we are very fortunate here in Vancouver. We’ve got two great goaltenders that are real good people and love to play here in Vancouver.”
Luongo was victimized by some glaring defensive breakdowns, but put the blame on himself after the game.
“What happened (Wednesday) is over with,” Luongo said. “We turned the page and we moved on.”
General manager Mike Gillis told a Vancouver radio station Wednesday that Luongo will start in the first game of the playoffs. But the goaltender dismissed the pledge.
“I’ve got the determination and competitive edge that I want,” Luongo said. “Whatever happens, happens. I don’t like to look too far ahead and I don’t like to look behind. I’m trying to stay in the moment and live in the moment. If you start worrying about all that other side, it’s really not good for you mentally.”
Vigneault praised Schneider, who has gone 13-4-1 since mid-December, for the way he has dealt with his role as a replacement for Luongo. Schneider took exception to the way fans cheered him as he entered the game against the Ducks, contending Luongo deserved better treatment after all that he has done for the team and the city.
“He’s handled it the way I expect all of our players to handle it,” said Vigneault of Schneider. “This is a team-first business. The team has to come before any individual agenda. Cory’s done a remarkable job since he’s been in this organization to go through the steps, pay his dues and work on his craft. Obviously, right now, he’s really on top of his game.”
Notes: F Zack Kassian is expected to miss Thursday’s game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. The Canucks called up Byron Bitz from the AHL’s Chicago Wolves to replace him. … D Keith Ballard has been cleared for full contact after partaking in all practice activities. Ballard was scheduled to make the trip, but will not play. He has been out with a concussion and neck injury since February. … The team did no provide an update on injured defenceman Kevin Bieksa. … D Aaron Rome, recuperating from a knee injury, also participated in practice and was due to catch the flight to Calgary. Rome said it’s possible he will play against the Flames. … Vigneault does not plan to rest players in advance of the playoffs. The Canucks close out the regular season at home Saturday against Edmonton.