Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Schneider on the shelf

No. 1 stopper won't play; Luongo set to start last game

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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 tonight against the Anaheim Mighty 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.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2013 D4

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