Cory Schneider is hoping to turn consecutive starts into the rhythm missing from his game so far. The Canucks' backup might have to do it behind a patchwork defense.
Schneider will be in goal for a second-straight game Sunday night against Ottawa while No.1 Roberto Luongo continues to recover from a still-unidentified upper body injury, but won't know until just before the game exactly who is playing in front of him.
Keith Ballard is definitely out after suffering a back injury early in Wednesday's 5-1 loss to rival Chicago, and will be replaced by Andrew Alberts on a third pairing with Aaron Rome. Alexander Edler was a late scratch from the morning skate with back spasms of his own and is listed as a game-time decision. Alexander Sulzer is ready to replace him, but the fact Edler might still play was at least a positive sign it isn't serious for a valuable top-4 defender that missed more than two months after back surgery last season.
"Alex came in this morning with stiffness in his back," head coach Alain Vigneault said after the game-day skate. "So we're working on him right now."
No matter who plays on defense, Schneider is preparing himself mentally to see more odd-man rushes, something the normally stingy Canucks have surrendered more of during an inconsistent 9-9-1 start to the season. Add in a 13-day break between his last two starts, and Schneider admitted he is struggling to find his form from last season.
"Today is a good opportunity to bounce back and have a solid effort," he said. "We need this one badly so I think we'll be ready to go and for my personally to get back on a more consistent level that I am used to playing at and sort of solidify the back end there."
As for the rush chances, Schneider said he and Luongo, who skated for a second straight day Sunday but will cede the backup job to AHL call up Matt Climie, need to be more aggressive on the puck carrier, and trust their defense to take care of the pass option.
"Just reading certain situations and maybe handling rushes differently," Schneider said. "We seem to be giving up more rush chances, so that's something we're going to have to adjust to and maybe be a little more aggressive on those ones. And for me just keep the focus for 60 minutes and not having that mental lapse where a bad goal goes in."
With a .904 save percentage, he wasn't getting any arguments from his coach.
"Our whole team needs to be better and can be better," Vigneault said. "That being said it's very evident when teams get on rolls in the NHL, one of the key components to that success is goaltending. We need our goaltenders to give us the same thing."
With Ryan Kesler feeling well enough to play after taking a practice off because of right shoulder stiffness from a hard crash into the end boards, the forward lines are expected to stay the same, at least to start. Vigneault had them in a blender pretty quick in the last game.
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Alex Burrows
Cody Hodgson - Maxim Lapierre - Chris Higgins
Aaron Volpatti - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise
If Edler can play, the top four will stay intact, but if not don't be surprised if Aaron Rome moves up to play with Sami Salo on the second pairing, with Sulzer on the right side with Alberts.
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler - Sami Salo
Andrew Alberts - Aaron Rome
Schneider starts, with Climie called up from the AHL to back him up.