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AHL regular season winds down Moose stopper Schneider doesn't want to stop now

Neither he nor coach says it's time for rest

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With six games to go in the regular season, Manitoba Moose coach Scott Arniel was given this assignment on Saturday: Use "rest" and "Cory Schneider" in the same sentence.

"Our schedule's pretty good right now and I don't think Cory needs a rest," Arniel said. He could also have said we'll be seeing plenty of the league's No. 1 goalie the rest of the way.

With a mark of 27-7-1, a goals-against average of 1.89 and a save percentage of .931, Schneider has done an excellent job of building consistency in his second pro season.

"Cory is a guy who has continued to play at a high level and he was real good again (Friday)," Arniel said of Manitoba's 2-1 overtime win against Hamilton.

The teams meet again this afternoon at the MTS Centre (2 p.m., CJOB). "I don't want to tinker too much with his mindset, and when there's the opportunity, I want to make sure he's out there."

The entire Moose season -- so far, 102 points and a first-overall standing -- has not rested on the shoulders of the 23-year-old from Marblehead, Mass., nor will it to the finish.

That's because Manitoba has NHL-battle-tested Curtis Sanford as the other half of a netminding duo that plays behind a fairly strong lineup.

Schneider, however, figures to be the spotlight goalie for the post-season, barring something very unusual in the coming days.

And he said he's anything but in need of a breather.

"Obviously, Curtis has done great and we'll share the time or whatever, but I don't think I've played too many games, only 44 between Van and here, so I'm relatively fresh, so to speak," said Schneider, who was absent from the team for about six weeks, helping to fill in when Canucks' No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo was out with a groin injury. "After the next game, we have almost a week off before Toronto.

"I'm sure the coach will be good at delegating practice time to keep it short so that guys stay fresh. I think Curtis is pretty fresh, too, so either one of us will be ready to go."

Schneider, who has started two of the last four contests, said after Saturday's brief practice at Gateway Community Centre that he's enthused about his improving form.

"I think last night was almost the best I felt all year," he said. "I felt good moving around and tracking the puck and it just had that playoff feel to it, plus we had that intensity and adrenaline going."

That form is evident at the time of year when deflected shots and pucks off skates and legs are common happenings for goals.

"It seems that if a goalie is seeing the puck at this time of year, he's going to stop it," Schneider said. "You've got to get garbage goals and get to the front of the net.

"For the team, you have to make sure you block shots, pick up guys in front of the net and don't leave any loose sticks around.

"For a goalie, you have to read the plays, be aggressive and try to get out on those tips, don't sit back. It's all situational and you've got to be aware."

With their remaining games reasonably spread out, Arniel did say Saturday that both Schneider and Sanford can expect playing time.

"I think we're spread out here good for the rest of the season and both guys will get an opportunity to play a couple of games," he said.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 29, 2009 C3

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