DENVER -- Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has no problem starting rookie goalie Cory Schneider against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night at the Pepsi Center even with first place in the Northwest Division on the line.
Why should he? Schneider has been brilliant so far this season with a 2-0-0 record, 0.86 goals-against average and .968 save percentage.
"If you look at his stats, they're real good," Vigneault said following his team's morning skate Thursday. "He's played real well for us. He looks really in control and is playing with a lot of confidence."
Aside from Schneider's numbers, Vigneault is giving star Roberto Luongo the night off because the Canucks are in a stretch in which they are playing four times in six nights. Luongo will be back in goal Saturday when the Canucks play host to the Detroit Red Wings.
Schneider, 24, was Vancouver's first-round pick (No. 26) in the 2004 NHL entry draft. A native of Marblehead, Mass., he played three years at Boston College and spent all but 10 games in the past three seasons with the Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League.
After appearing in 60 games with the Moose a year ago, Schneider is adjusting to life as a backup.
"It's been almost two weeks since I played, but it's my job to be ready at practice and to work hard there so I'm not a step behind when the games come," he said.
Schneider hasn't played since Oct. 22 when he stopped 23 of 24 shots in a 5-1 win against the Minnesota Wild. This will be his first road test of the season.
"They have a lot of young guys with a lot of speed, so I'll have to be on my toes and make some big saves early in the game," Schneider said of the Avalanche. "They're a young, dangerous team and one of our chief rivals in the division. It's always a battle when you're playing teams in your division."
Peter Budaj will make his fourth consecutive start in goal for the Avalanche as Craig Anderson continues treatment for a right knee injury. Budaj stopped 27 shots Oct. 26 in Colorado's 4-3 overtime loss in Vancouver.
The Avalanche, who have won two games in a row, could use a little more magic from center Matt Duchene, who sent the previous meeting with the Canucks to overtime when he scored with 1:33 remaining in regulation.
Duchene also scored the decisive shootout goal April 6 last season when the Avalanche clinched a playoff berth with a 4-3 win in Vancouver.
"I don't know what it is," Duchene said. "Hopefully it continues. Hopefully I can put one in and help the team out tonight."
Rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk will make his NHL debut against the Canucks. Shattenkirk, 21, was recalled from the Lake Erie Monsters in the AHL because Kyle Cumiskey suffered a concussion in last Saturday's game against Columbus.
Shattenkirk was the Avalanche's No. 1 pick (No. 14) in 2007. He had no points in 10 games with Lake Erie.
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said he would dress seven defensemen against the Canucks and use Shattenkirk on power plays.