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Canucks vs Sharks

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Canucks vs Sharks - 2013 SCP Conference Quarterfinals

Schneider has evolved into Canucks' No. 1 option

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- There may be lingering questions about Cory Schneider’s health heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after he missed the final two games to rest a "body" injury that the Vancouver Canucks insist is minor.

There is no question, however, that a healthy Schneider is the Canucks' No. 1 option when the playoffs do start.

Cory Schneider
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 17-9-4
GAA: 2.11 | SVP: 0.927
Just ask the guy he replaced.

Longtime starter Roberto Luongo wasted no time rattling off a list of superlatives when asked why Schneider has been so good, including a surprisingly direct comparison and several elements Luongo has tried to implement himself.

"He's obviously much quicker than I am," Luongo told "He's technical and he's quick, he's always in perfect position to make the save. When you are playing that way, and also as athletic as he is -- so if he does have to make a scramble save he has the ability to do that as well -- it's tough to beat him."

Canucks not ready to name Game 1 starter in goal

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Roberto Luongo apologized for blowing off the media after a rough ending to the regular season on Saturday, when he allowed seven goals on 37 shots in a loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Cory Schneider is sorry he has to keep doing it going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs this week.

Cory Schneider
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 17-9-4
GAA: 2.11 | SVP: 0.927
Schneider was back at practice Monday after missing the final two games of the regular season with a mysterious injury, but the Vancouver Canucks would-be No. 1 goaltender for the Stanley Cup Playoffs wasn’t saying much afterwards.

A healthy Schneider almost certainly would be the starter for Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN), but all indications from Schneider, Luongo and coach Alain Vigneault on Monday are they won’t announce it until game day.

Until then, Schneider said he just hopes to keep progressing in the right direction, which started with a "controlled environment" skate with goaltending coach Roland Melanson on Sunday before moving on to the full practice with teammates on Monday.

Sharks goalie Niemi took advantage of time off

Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi didn't have to search hard to find a silver lining to the NHL lockout.

During the extended offseason, Niemi laid the groundwork for his best season with the Sharks, one that put him in contention for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender.

Niemi was in dire need of a long break when San Jose's season ended last year with a first-round loss to the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He began that season on injured reserve after undergoing surgery before training camp to remove a cyst near a knee. He missed every preseason game and the first three regular-season games.

Although Niemi played 68 regular-season games and five playoff games, he never fully recovered from the surgery or regained the strength he had lost, especially in his legs.

Canucks vs. Sharks series preview Staff


 Seed: 326-15-7 • 59 Pts.


 Seed: 625-15-757 Pts.

The San Jose Sharks got faster with a string of deals near the NHL Trade Deadline, but came up short in their quest to finish fourth and earn home-ice advantage in the first round. That would have helped a lot -- the Sharks won 17 times and failed to earn a point twice in 24 games at HP Pavilion; they won eight road games, one in Vancouver. Antti Niemi has been excellent in goal, the defense is competent, and the core forwards -- Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski -- can score.

The Vancouver Canucks won the Northwest Division for the fifth straight time, but that was attributable to the struggles of the other four teams as much as their solid play. The goaltending situation is the same as it was during the summer: Cory Schneider is the starter when healthy, former starter Roberto Luongo is the backup. Six forwards reached double figures in goals, but no one had more than 13 and only the Sedin twins finished with more than 27 points. Vancouver won its division, but the Canucks weren't nearly as dominant as they have been the past couple of seasons.

X-Factor: Kesler could define success for Canucks

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

Whether it's Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider between the pipes, the Vancouver Canucks know they have the type of goaltending required to enjoy a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ryan Kesler
Center - VAN
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 13
SOG: 36 | +/-: -5
Although they combined for a few more than 20 goals this season, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin remain world-class players who, if they get hot, can dominate a series.

So, who is the "X-Factor" for Vancouver? Who is the player who can cause fits at both ends of the ice?

That would be versatile forward Ryan Kesler.

Kesler is finally healthy after what has to be the most frustrating season of his career. He began the 2012-13 campaign on injured reserve after undergoing surgeries on his shoulder and wrist.

Why the Canucks will win the Stanley Cup

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Vancouver Canucks have been here before. For the fifth straight season, the enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as Northwest Division champions.

Granted, they didn't cruise to a division crown like we've seen in past years. But the fact they're the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference after everything they've endured this season speaks volumes about the grit, character and, most of all, talent that still exists in Vancouver.

Five Questions: Goalies, PP top Canucks' concerns

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Vancouver Canucks had a lot to deal with this season, but it didn't stop them from capturing their fifth straight Northwest Division championship.

Cory Schneider
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 17-9-4
GAA: 2.11 | SVP: 0.927

For the first time in three seasons, the Canucks won't find themselves atop the Western Conference standings, but their third-place finish means they'll have home-ice advantage at least through the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now, the Canucks must find a way to win that elusive Cup. Here are five questions facing them entering the postseason:

Why the Sharks will win the Stanley Cup

Mike Battaglino - Staff Writer

The San Jose Sharks have shown this season they can play as well as any team in the NHL.

The Sharks have shown this season they can play as well as any team in the NHL, giving them a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. (Photo: Getty Images)

They started with seven straight wins in January and had another seven-game winning streak span late March and early April. They never lost more than two games in a row in regulation.

If they can put together more of those scorching hot streaks than their moderately cold ones during the next two months, they can win their first Stanley Cup.

It would help immensely if they can get into a home-ice position during the run: San Jose went 17-2-5 at HP Pavilion.

Goaltender Antti Niemi won a Stanley Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, and the Sharks called on him in almost every game of the second half. He started 24 in a row.

Niemi had a 24-15 career playoff record before last season's five-game ouster.

The Sharks have won at least one playoff round in six of the past eight years, which means they have other players (and a coach) with significant postseason experience.

X-Factor: Burns brings added dimension at forward

Mike Battaglino - Staff Writer

Brent Burns moved from defenseman to forward during this regular season for the San Jose Sharks, with great success.

Brent Burns
Defense - SJS
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 20
SOG: 81 | +/-: 0
Now Burns will get to try a slightly different position: forward in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then, maybe someday, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

"What he's done for our team is a lot like [Colin] Kaepernick for the 49ers," Sharks coach Todd McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News about Burns. "He has the ability to roam around and be somewhat reckless at times."

Five Questions: Sharks need road success, Pavelski

Mike Battaglino - Staff Writer

There's a question that's been haunting the San Jose Sharks for quite some time:

Will they ever win the Stanley Cup?

Here are five questions they must answer to win it this season:

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