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Schneider starts

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Cory Schneider was out for dinner with family and friends Thursday night in Boston, so he didn’t get a chance to catch the Bruins game.

It was, not surprisingly, playing on a nearby TV in the restaurant, however, and it took him but a few glances to see the Bruins were mightily in charge. They thumped the Calgary Flames 9-0. Boston routed the New Jersey Devils 6-1 a night earlier.

Schneider is now faced with the task of trying to cool off the NHL’s hottest team with the NHL’s hottest offence when the Vancouver Canucks face the Bruins in a rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in a Saturday matinee game at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Coach Alain Vigneault opting to start Schneider over Roberto Luongo, fresh off his 57th career shutout, has crippled Twitter with reactions ranging from supporting Schneider to calling out Luongo as a coward.

The goaltending duo had no say in the final decision, and neither did either player’s performance during the Cup Final a year ago, according to Vigneault.

“We’ve got two goaltenders here that we’ve got confidence in and every game, we’ve played 41 so far, you could make a case to play one or the other and in this instant, I decided that Cory is going to be the goaltender,” said Vigneault, who did not get into specifics about the decision.

There are a few ways to look at Vigneault’s choice and none of them involve him hiding Luongo from the Boston faithful, as many have suggested.

This story is more about Schneider, a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, making his first career start in Boston, in front of friends and family, in the rink that helped forge his love for hockey as a kid.

Other than making two unscheduled appearances in the net during Games 4 and 6 of the Cup Final last June, Schneider has never faced the Bruins. Not one of his 42 NHL starts has come against Boston and with the opportunity arising just once every two years using the current league schedule, the time is ripe for Schneider to make is hometown debut.

And for what it’s worth, Schneider is undefeated in day games at 1-0.

Naturally, the 25-year-old is over the moon excited for the biggest regular season game of his career.

“It’s great, I’m not sure if I was expecting it, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to play in my hometown, but more importantly, to play a big game for our team against probably the best team in the league right now,” said Schneider, mobbed by reporters Friday after the Canucks practiced at Harvard University.

“It’ll be a great challenge for myself personally and I’m just hoping I can step up and deliver a big game.”

In addition to his 65-plus minute played in Boston last fall, Schneider also stood tall at the Garden for the Boston College Eagles. He’s comfortable with the atmosphere and knows what to expect from the fans going in as the enemy.

It’s what’ll be coming at him on the ice that could catch him and everyone else by surprise.

The Bruins have won 23 of their last 27 games having outscored opponents 116-45 over that stretch. It gets worse. Over the last 10 games, Boston is 9-1-0 with 45 goals for and a mere 13 against. And while every team in the NHL has scored six goals or more in a game 47 times combined, the Bruins have done it 11 times on their own.

“They’re just deep, it seems like all four lines can score, every guy can shoot the puck and shoot it with a purpose and they’re big and physical, but they have a lot of skill and finesse,” assessed Schneider.

“They’ve been steamrolling over teams lately and we’re going to have to be ready.”

You can say that again.

Yet unlike the last time the Canucks faced the Bruins, there will be hockey to be played a few days later.

It’s about the two-points at stake, not redemption.

“We’d love to come in here and win the game, but at the end of the day nothing is going to change the outcome of what happened last year,” said Luongo. “It would be nice for us to get a big win here at the start of the road trip and move on.”

Luongo, for one, has moved on and although he hinted at running into the Bruins later on this season, he’s fully behind the decision to start Schneider.

“I would have liked to play the game, but in fairness to Cory, he’s from here and he deserves to play this game and I’m all for it.”

Even with Luongo on the bench, he said he’s expecting to hear his name catcalled a few times from the Boston faithful.

Growing up Schneider wanted nothing more than to having his name chanted at the Garden, but now, and especially Saturday, not so much.

“It definitely won’t be tomorrow,” laughed Schneider.

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