They will have the best goaltending in the league.

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This article was published 28/9/2009 (4654 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

They will have the best goaltending in the league.

Their defence promises to be strong, mobile and stifling.

Last season's top AHL goalie, Cory Schneider, didn't stand out at Vancouver's training camp and is en route to Winnipeg.

JIMMY JEONG / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Last season's top AHL goalie, Cory Schneider, didn't stand out at Vancouver's training camp and is en route to Winnipeg.

And if they can get a couple of 15-goal scorers to morph into 20-goal scorers and a couple of 20-goal scorers to turn into 30-goal scorers, they should be able to score enough to win more games than they lose.

Can the Manitoba Moose return to the final of the Calder Cup, where they took bridesmaid honours last season? It's way too early to tell.

But the portrait that emerged of the Moose on Monday, as the team cut or assigned a dozen players to make room for an airlift of eight newcomers from Vancouver, is a club that will compete hard most nights this season.

"I feel good about where we are as a hockey team right now," Moose head coach Scott Arniel said Monday night. "We look solid. We should have depth at every position."

And nowhere is that more true than in net, where the Moose will open the AHL regular-season Friday with the best goalie in the league last season -- Cory Schneider -- in goal and a proven AHL commodity in Daren Machesney waiting in the wings as a backup.

Schneider was among the eight Canucks assigned to Winnipeg Monday as Vancouver gets set for the start of their regular season on Thursday.

Schneider did not perform to his expectations -- or anyone else's -- in Vancouver and is among several players who will be on the ice for practice at MTS Centre this morning who would rather not be here.

That list will also include forwards Michael Grabner and Alexandre Bolduc, both of whom were thought to have legitimate shots at cracking the Canucks opening-game lineup but failed to impress enough to avoid demotion on Monday.

All of which presents Arniel the same problem he has at this time every year -- motivating men who would clearly rather be somewhere else.

It helps, says Arniel, that 'somewhere else' happens to be in a city that can boast, by almost any measure, the marquee franchise in the American Hockey League.

"They'll be disappointed and upset," Arniel pointed out, "but they also know they're coming to a good place that they are familiar with.

"It's not like they're going to purgatory or some place they're not treated as well."

Arniel confirmed that a couple more Canucks are still expected to be sent down this week and his final roster -- which sits at 25 now -- is not yet set.

But there are some things that are known and one is that 23-year-old Russian sparkplug Sergei Shirokov will not be in the opening-day lineup.

Shirokov turned down a $500,000 guaranteed salary in the elite Russian KLM league this season to take a bit of a long shot at cracking the Canucks lineup. And he appears to have done just that, leading the Canucks in scoring during the pre-season and quickly becoming a media darling.

What's good news for the Russian, however, isn't great news for the Moose, who could use a prolific playmaker like Shirokov on a club that will open the season without one.

The top line for the Moose right now looks to be one centred by former NHLer Marty Murray, with Grabner and Matt Pope on the wings.

"Good for him," Arniel said of Shirokov. "He made the most of his opportunity."

As for the Moose, they've kept, at least for now, enforcer Matt McCue and Central Leaguer Derek LeBlanc, who both impressed during the brief Moose pre-season, that consisted of two losses over the weekend in Abbotsford to the Heat.

Arniel said some medical assessments are pending on three of the players on the roster. Both Bolduc and Guillaume Desbiens arrive from Vancouver with injuries that will need to be assessed by the Moose medical staff today and defenceman Brian Salcido, assigned to the Moose last week by Anaheim, was injured in the game against the Heat on Sunday and is also undergoing a medical assessment.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.