Vancouver's Cory Schneider knows how tough the Blackhawks can be on a goalie.
As the Western Conference's top team in both points (25) and goals (60), Chicago is clearly capable of scoring in bunches and sending a goalie to the showers early. But Schneider knows firsthand they can also knock you off your feet -- literally.
The Canucks' second-year backup was left prone on the ice clutching his cramping quadriceps the last time he faced Chicago, forced to depart in the third period of a surprise Game 6 start in the first round of the playoffs as a result. So as Schneider prepares to play the archrival Blackhawks for the first time in the regular season on Wednesday, he is well-hydrated and ready to be busy.
"They have some of the best high-end skill in the world," said Schneider, who gets the start with No. 1 Roberto Luongo "day-to-day" after suffering an undisclosed "upper-body injury" Sunday. "All their guys are goal scorers but also great play makers, so as soon as you play shot they make a pass for a back-door tap in."
Which can really take a toll on a goaltender forced to try and stay patiently on his skates, ready to react by dropping for a shot, or with a late lateral push. By the time Schneider got through two periods of it in the playoffs, he could already feel muscles "grabbing," and after the second intermission knew he had a problem.
"It was my quads," he said. "When you go sit between periods for 15 minutes, as soon as I got out there for the third I knew something might be up and sure enough, as soon as you sort lock your muscles out like a split, that's when it seizes."
Schneider, who experienced similar problems in the AHL playoffs three years earlier, said he consulted experts both inside and outside the Canucks organization over the summer to try and come up with the right mix of minerals, vitamins, and electrolytes to keep him hydrated before, during and after each game.
"So far, so good," said Schneider, clutching a bottle of pink liquid.
As for playing the hated Hawks, Schneider said no extra stimulants are needed.
"It's definitely in the air when we play these guys, just the hate from some of the past experiences, and I've been around enough to know we don't like them," he said. "It's been a lot of fun to watch this rivalry the last year and getting into a regular season game will be fun, hopefully I can draw on some of the experience I gained last year in the playoffs and see if I can slow these guys down."
And stay standing up himself.
Other than Schneider, the Canucks will stick with the line combinations and defensive pairings that have scored seven goals in four periods since being put together for the third period of a failed comeback in Anaheim on Friday night:
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Alexandre Burrows
Cody Hodgson - Maxim Lapierre - Chris Higgins
Aaron Volpatti - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Aaron Rome
Vancouver called up third-stringer Eddie Lack from Chicago of the American Hockey League on Wednesday morning to back Schneider up. Lack didn't arrive in time for the game-day skate, though, leaving assistant equipment manager Jamie Hendricks to stop pucks for a third-straight day. But with coach Alain Vigneault indicating Lack would be sent back Thursday, it appears Luongo may be back by the next game, Sunday night against visiting Ottawa.