NEWARK, N.J. -- Other than Keith Kinkaid and likely his family, nobody is happier about the rookie goalie's rapid ascent to No. 2 on the New Jersey Devils depth chart than Cory Schneider.
If not for Kinkaid, who will make his third start in the past six games against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, Schneider might still be on pace to start 80 games this season, an unreasonable task to ask of any goalie at any level.
"I was on pace for that, wasn't I?" Schneider said with a laugh Friday morning.
Not that he would have complained, particularly after fighting for every minute he could get in the net over the past four seasons, first with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver and then last season with Martin Brodeur in New Jersey.
But Schneider is also a realist, and a former backup, so he knows how important it is to have one.
"I love playing so I have no problem with the workload," Schneider said. "I think sometimes mentally it's good to get a break, and physically, but overall I have actually felt I thinks stronger in my last 15 games than I did in my first 15 games. I look forward to getting in there every night. A break is welcome, but I'm ready to go next time."
He doesn't have to wait long. Schneider will start his League-high 31st game of the season Saturday against the Washington Capitals at Prudential Center, but the mere fact that Kinkaid has played well enough to earn more reps means Schneider can get a breather, which at one point looked like it would never come.
Schneider started the first 20 games of the season before Scott Clemmensen started on Nov. 22 at the Calgary Flames. Clemmensen made 33 saves in a 5-4 shootout loss. Devils coach Peter DeBoer then went back to Schneider for the next seven straight starts before inserting Kinkaid against the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 9.
"We anticipated using a backup at some point in the first 20 games, but my priority was to make sure Cory felt like he was a starter, that he was the undisputed starter," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "He hadn't been in that situation before playing a bunch of games in a row and just the way it fell out, either him playing well and us wanting to go back with him, or him having a tough night and us wanting to go back with him to reinforce his position, he just played that many in a row. I don't think it hurt him. It was early in the season. He's fresh. We're in a spot now where we knew we would have to play a backup and to Keith's credit he's seized that opportunity."
Kinkaid made 37 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss, impressing DeBoer enough to earn another start. He got it Monday and he answered with 31 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss against the New York Islanders. That earned him a chance to start Friday.
"[Clemmensen] played a tough game in Calgary and Keith has looked really good in his two games," Schneider said. "We have a lot of trust in both those guys so whoever it is, right now it's Keith, you have to have that trust and let him go play. It's good to get a break every now and then."
It's quite different too. Prior to this season, Schneider's longest stretch of consecutive starts came at the end of the 2012-13 season, when he made 11 in a row.
"There has been times where physically you have to find the energy sometimes on a back-to-back or a three in four; you've gotta come up with that extra five percent that you may be lacking," Schneider said. "But overall I've felt pretty good physically. I've had no real issues. Mentally it's a learning process. You learn how to go out there every single night and be the guy. We're 30 games in, I've got what I've hoped for and worked for, it's up to me to take advantage of it and win some more games."