By Elizabeth Moffat, Canucks.com
Roberto Luongo will sit out at least one more pre-season game after suffering a slight tweak to his groin in Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Although the netminder has suffered more severe groin injuries in the past, he is confident his latest injury is minor, and hopes to be back on the ice tomorrow or Thursday.
“I’d like to get one more game in before the regular season,” he said. “At the same time, you want to make sure your not endangering yourself to aggravating the injury.”
Luongo is expected back in the net for Friday’s rematch against Anaheim.
Regardless of Luongo’s absence, Cory Schneider was always slated to start again tonight against the San Jose Sharks. Schneider is winless so far in the pre-season, falling 3-1 to Calgary and 8-2 to Edmonton. He is scheduled to play a full 60 minutes in tonight’s matchup.
Schneider reflected on the team’s performance Sunday night that gave up four goals in the first period - something he’s determined not to have happen again.
“From myself on out, the team wasn’t ready to play, and we didn’t play well at all,” he said. “You’ve got to move on and put it behind you, as a goalie you need to have a short memory, so I’m not thinking about it too much right now.”
Schneider continues to work with the Canucks new full time goalie coach, Roland Melanson, and plans to implement his advice to make the necessary adjustments tonight.
“What he’s saying makes sense to me when he shows it to me on the video,” said Schneider. “It’s pretty clear what he wants me to do, and why it works. If I can make these adjustments, hopefully I can reduce some goals and have a better night”
This weekend it was revealed that Keith Ballard underwent hip surgery in May which required the defenseman to avoid putting any weight on the joint for two months.
"There's a few days where it has been sore," Ballard said to Iain Macintyre of the Vancouver Sun. "The hip has actually been pretty good. I was on crutches for two months. I was non-weight bearing for two months. It was a long process."
The setback in training from his surgery is one of several factors which explain Ballard’s slow start to the pre-season. Other reasons given include the transition to a new environment, and adjusting not only to new teammates, but also to an increase in media scrutiny.
Moving to the hockey mad city of Vancouver has been a big adjustment for the defenseman, who has spent his five years in Phoenix and Florida. He was acquired by Vancouver in a draft-day trade that sent the Canucks 2010 first round draft pick along with forwards Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner to the Florida Panthers for Ballard and Victor Oreskovich. Last season Ballard recorded 28 points, including 8 goals in 82 games.
Ballard is the first to admit that he hasn’t played his best during the pre-season, recording no points and is a -4 in two games, but doesn’t use the hip surgery as an excuse.
“It has been a slow start, but now I’m progressing and taking steps in the right direction,” he said. “It’s not necessarily my hip that’s contributing to my slow start, it’s a number of different things.”
Head coach Alain Vigneault isn’t going to rush progress, and is waiting to see how the 27-year-old progresses as the regular season nears.
“I don’t think saying that he has a slow start is fair, he’s a player coming into a new environment, new teammates, a lot more scrutiny then he’s had in the past in Phoenix or Florida,” said Vigneault. “We’ve seen a progression every day, so we’re going to let him get used to this new environment and we’re confident everything’s going to be very good there.”
GAME DAY NOTES
The Canucks take on the Sharks tonight at Rogers Arena. Vancouver has a pre-season record of 1-4-0 following an 8-2 loss to Edmonton Sunday, while San Jose has gone 1-3-0. Last season the Canucks won both exhibition games against the Sharks, but lost 1-3-0 in the regular season, winning only their final matchup.
After assigning 10 players to the Manitoba Moose Monday, the roster has more experience than previously displayed during the pre-season, but a final roster has not been set with several spots still remain open. Jeff Tambellini is one guy who will be looking to fill a spot, he’s nabbed one assist in two games, and had a successful game with the Sedins on Saturday.
Tonight’s defensive line is a good indication of what the blueline will look like for opening night.
The first line sees Mikael Samuelsson starting with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, a familiar and successful trio from last season.
Cody Hodgson is back for his second game, having gone pointless in his first game against Edmonton, skating on a line with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond. The third line consists of Manny Malhotra, who has picked up a goal in the pre-season, Raffi Torres, who has two points, and Jannik Hansen.
Rick Rypien is still out with a bruised rib, and expected to be out for 5-7 days.