By Elizabeth Moffat, Canucks.com
Roberto Luongo will be starting tonight for the first time in the preseason. Head coach Alain Vigneault plans to have him play in at leasat three of the remaining seven preseason games, giving the younger prospects an opportunity to get warmed up for the season. Luongo doesn’t mind the partial game, which gives him a chance to ease himself into a new season.
“I don’t mind two periods,” he said, “I’ll ease into it a little bit and take it as we go.”
As it stands now, Cory Schneider is scheduled to take over the net for the third period tonight. He played the first two periods in the 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames last night, allowing only one goal in 18 shots.
Coach Vigneault has high hopes for the 24-year-old goalie, although he started in only one game last season, coach liked what he saw last night. Schneider showed the coaches that he wants to earn a spot on the roster as he gave his all last night and was the stand-out Canuck player of the game.
With full-time goalie coach Roland Melanson, Schneider hopes to pick up some tips to refine his play. The change for Luongo has already been a positive one.
“Roland is a great guy and a good goalie coach,” said Luongo, “you develop a friendship and a relationship with time, and I’ve enjoyed working with him so far.”
Luongo finished with a .913 SV% and 2.57 GAA last season - his lowest since his rookie year with the Islanders, although he did complete his second 40-win season of his career.
With a new goalie coach and a fresh set of eyes to old techniques, Luongo plans to implement Melanson’s advice in tonight’s game as he looks to improve his game.
”I’m going to work on a few things that Rolli’s brought to my attention,” said the goalie. “And not worry about what the result is going to be tonight, just focus on that during the game. It’s going to be a process to get used to some of those things, but I’m willing to learn and give it a shot.”
SHIROKOV SKATES WITH SWEDISH SIBLINGS
Sergei Shirokov makes his debut on the first line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin tonight. The 24-year-old Russian performed well in the 2009 preseason, recording 3 points in 2 games. He played only six games during the 2009-10 season, earning no points and finishing a minus-4.
Both Sedin brothers believe Shirokov has the skill set to play on an NHL team’s first line, having seen him play in last year’s preseason.
“He’s got a great shot,” said Daniel, “and he’s pretty smart out there too. He matured a lot last year, playing in Manitoba, it’s a different game then playing in Russia, so we’ll see what he can do.”
Vigneault believes the winger has the necessary skills and potential, and his right-handed shot is something the Canucks could use this season.
“He’s got a real good skill set,” said coach Vigneault. “He can find the holes, and get open and shoot the puck and make some plays around the net. His understanding of North American hockey has improved since last year.”
Shirokov had to opportunity to play in Russia instead of coming to the North America, as many of his counterparts choose to do. However, he continues to pursue a career away from his home, despite the lures from across the Atlantic.
“He has a tremendous amount of potential.” Said Vigneault. “I like the fact that he could have stayed home and made a lot more guaranteed money, but he wants to play in the best league in the world, that says a lot about his character and who he is. I’ll give him every opportunity to prove he can do it.”
GAME DAY NOTES
Last night, both Canuck lineups were notably missing key players, but tonight the Canucks return to Rogers Arena to face the Edmonton Oilers with a more familiar line-up filled with veteran players.
The Canucks suffered their first (and second) preseason regulation loss last night, while the Oilers are playing their first preseason game tonight, having finished 4-3-1 last September.
In the 2009 preseason, Vancouver and Edmonton played each other twice, picking up a win apiece. During the regular season Vancouver compiled a 4-2-0 record over the Oilers. Edmonton finished in last place in the NHL last season, with only 62 points.
Despite past success against Edmonton, Ryan Kesler is not taking Edmonton, or the preseason in general, lightly.
“I think it’s just important to play the game right,” said the Selke nominee, “get our feet wet early, and put out a solid outing.I think we have to have that mentality going in, we can’t go in thinking it’s going to be an easy game, no matter who they put out, they always have a tough line up.”
League MVP and last years scoring leader, Henrik Sedin is just eager to get back on the ice and face some new opponents.
“You can practice all you want,” he said “but this is when the fun starts. It doesn’t matter if it’s preseason or not, it’s always fun to play another team.”
Here’s tonight’s expected lineup:
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Sergei Shirokov
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Mikael Samuelsson
Peter Schafer - Alex Bolduc - Guiallume Desbiens
Aaron Volpatti - Joel Perrault - Victor Oreskovich
Dan Hamhuis - Alexander Edler
Andrew Alberts - Christian Ehrhoff
Lee Sweatt - Kevin Connauton
Taylor Ellington - Travis Ramsey
Rick Rypien will be out 7-10 days due to injured ribs suffered in last nights home game.