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Canucks not ready to name Game 1 starter in goal

by Kevin Woodley

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.

"I was able to complete a whole practice, which is encouraging," Schneider said. "I'm still day-to-day here, but whenever you are able to do a however-long practice, it's a good sign. We have until Wednesday, so I don't think I need to make a decision right now. We'll keep an eye on it and come to a decision with the trainer and coach. I'm not going to make any predictions right now."

Schneider wasn't even providing hints about the true nature of what his coach labeled a "body injury," repeating the day-to-day mantra a dozen times during an his post-practice session with the media -- and then apologizing for it.

Schneider wasn't even sure if he was allowed to share -- so he didn't -- when he was injured during a 3-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks a week earlier, a game he finished and talked about afterward without any signs of a problem.

"Going into playoffs our team has taken a firm stance on not discussing injuries, not disclosing anything about them, so I hate to be vague and not very specific for you guys, but that's just our team policy right now," Schneider said.

Luongo also was issuing apologies Monday after taking off without talking to the media following a 7-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday that included Luongo giving up five goals in the final seven minutes of play. His rare refusal to talk after the game led to plenty of speculation he was upset with Vigneault for leaving him in behind a Canucks lineup that was resting many top players.

Luongo insisted Monday he was mad only at himself.

"I was pretty upset. I want to apologize for taking off on you guys. That's not my style usually, but I had a moment there and just needed some time to myself," Luongo said. "I was upset with myself. It's tough to get embarrassed like that. It's happened one too many times for me and I was really fuming and it was better for me to sit on the bus then maybe say some things I would regret later on."

Two days later, Luongo said he is ready -- and preparing -- to start Game 1 in case Schneider isn't ready.

"It looked like [Schneider] was feeling pretty good out there, but at the same time it's still two days away from the game and for me I am just getting ready as if I am starting," Luongo said. "I'm assuming and getting ready as if I am playing."

If Schneider is ready, the No. 1 job is his. He took it from Luongo three games into last year's playoffs, and after some early struggles this season, has cemented himself in that role since mid-March, winning 11 of 16 starts while posting a .942 save percentage down the stretch. He finished his first season as the starter with a 17-9-4 record, and was among the NHL leaders with a 2.11 goals-against average (eighth), a .927 save percentage (fourth) and five shutouts (tied for first).

As for going 10 days since his last start, Schneider said he has lots of experience coming in after long breaks between games from his first two seasons behind Luongo.

"I'd love to play," Schneider said. "It's the playoffs and I felt good about how I've been playing lately and this is when the fun part of the year starts is playoffs."

If he can't go, the Canucks turn back to Luongo, whose last playoff series win was against the Sharks in the 2011 Western Conference Finals.

"I would expect him to be the great goaltender he has always shown," Vigneault said. "He's been through a lot of battles, faced a lot of pressure. He has a tremendous resume, and if we need him to play, I am confident he will be ready."

The coach just isn't going to tell anyone if he'll need him before Wednesday.

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