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Devils' Schneider hopes to play Thursday

Goalie could return against Panthers after missing 11 games with MCL sprain

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider is hoping to play at the Florida Panthers on Thursday. It would be Schneider's first game since he sustained a grade 1 MCL sprain of his right knee against the Dallas Stars on March 4.
 
Schneider will miss his 11th straight game Tuesday, when New Jersey plays against the Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SNO, SNP, SNW, NESN, MSG, NHL.TV). The Devils are 5-4-1 without Schneider, who has a 2.17 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 55 appearances.

New Jersey is seven points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot with six games to play.
 
"We're going to play it by ear," Schneider said. "I'm not going to make any promises, but [Thursday] is probably the earliest and hopefully at least for sure by Saturday."
 
Schneider was on the ice for New Jersey's morning skate at Prudential Center on Tuesday after going to Albany to practice with the Devils' American Hockey League team on Monday. He plans to participate in the full team practice Wednesday as well as the morning skate Thursday in Florida before a decision is made on his return to game action.
 
The Devils also play at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
 
"It's just conditioning now," Devils coach John Hynes said. "Physically he's fine. He's been fine for a couple days now, but he's been off for a little while and I think it's different sometimes for a goaltender to come back. You can't hide him as a coach or limit his minutes. He's playing the 60. So it's important for him to get that practice time, get his stamina up, ready to go. That was what we wanted to do, make sure when he goes in he's fully ready to go."

Video: NJD@DAL: Schneider robs Spezza, exits with injury
 
Schneider was injured while making a pad save on Stars center Jason Spezza two minutes into the third period. His right skate got stuck on the post and he fell backwards. He said the injury looked bad, but he didn't fear the worst because the doctors immediately checked him out and told him it wasn't all that serious. He didn't think it was either.
 
"I sprained my left knee in college and it was worse than this, so that was a bit of a measuring stick," Schneider said. "I knew how that one felt and that was worse than this one, and that kept me out about a month. This is the longest time I've missed in my pro career."
 
Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood have filled in for Schneider, who said he never gave any consideration to shutting it down for the rest of the season.
 
"I feel bad even just being hurt," he said. "It's a tough feeling not being part of the team and not being able to help. Keith and Scotty have done a great job filling in, they've done everything they can ask for them. It's not that we're worried about who is in there, but for me personally, I take a lot of pride in being there, in being consistent and in being accountable. To miss an extended amount of time, probably more time than I thought I would, it's a tough feeling. So it's good to be back. As long as I feel good and healthy I'd like to play some games."

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