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Luongo will start Game 2 for regrouping Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Goaltending was back in the Vancouver Canucks' spotlight on Thursday, but they have bigger problems to worry about against the San Jose Sharks: scoring goals, killing penalties and winning faceoffs.

Roberto Luongo confirmed he would be back in net for Game 2 against San Jose on Friday (10 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN, RDS) after a getting a somewhat surprising start in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to open the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sharks.

Injured No.1 Cory Schneider didn't practice Thursday after being on the ice the previous four days, but there was no word whether he suffered a setback. Coach Alain Vigneault continued to label him "day-to-day" with a "body" injury.

"Not too sure what's going on with that," Luongo said of Schneider's health. "It's a playoff series, it's a bit of a mind game with the opposition, and I am just in the groove now to focus as if I am playing every game until I am told otherwise."

It won't matter who the Canucks have in goal if they don't get some offense from their top players and find a way to get to Antti Niemi at the other end.

Having a completely healthy Ryan Kesler should help.

Kesler, who hasn't been healthy in the playoffs since tearing his hip labrum in the deciding game of the 2011 Western Conference Finals against San Jose, battled the flu heading into Game 1. He downplayed it's effects, but was the only player who didn't take part in the morning skate Wednesday, looked lethargic at times during 21:33 of ice time, and often had an ice pack on his neck at the bench.

"I was healthy enough to play and gave it my all out there," Kesler said.

If so, the Canucks need more from him, and appear willing to sacrifice depth up front to get it, loading up a second line in practice with centers Kesler and Derek Roy playing together with Chris Higgins. The trio was effective late in the regular season, but Roy and Kesler were split up for Game 1 to match a Sharks team with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski as its top-three centers.

Reuniting a loaded second line may be a better option for a Canucks' team that has lost five straight Stanley Cup Playoff games at home dating to Game 7 of the 2011 Final, and struggled to score throughout that stretch.

"You put a little more pressure on yourself," said Kesler, who shifts to right wing. "But it's an opportunity to do a great thing and I am going to rise to the occasion."

Vancouver needs top-line twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin to do the same. And they need everyone to do more of it closer to the net and in front of Niemi.

"He pumps a lot of rebounds out into the slot," Roy said, "So we have to make sure we get to the net and battle for rebounds and put them upstairs."

It's no coincidence each team scored on a wild scramble in the crease that left the goaltender with little chance to find the puck or make a save. Vancouver wants to do more of that in Game 2.

"We were shooting but had no one there," Daniel Sedin said. "Niemi saw pretty much everything. Any goalie in the League is going to stop those pucks."

Solving the other problems may be a little tougher.

The Sharks, who were the NHL's second-best faceoff team in the regular season, won 40 of 70 draws in Game 1, forcing the Canucks to chase. San Jose's penalty killing, which vastly improved this season under the guidance of associate coach Larry Robinson, limited Vancouver to three shots on two power plays. And the Sharks' power play looked dominant at times, tic-tac-toeing the puck around the zone while generating seven shots early in the game, and then setting up Couture up with plenty of time and space to pick a corner for the tying goal.

Outside of whether Martin Havlat will play (he left Game 1 in the first period), the only thing the Sharks have to worry about going into Game 2 is keeping it up.

"We got one game, now we want two," said Couture, who set up Patrick Marleau's insurance goal with 5:23 left. "It's a good start, but that's it. We know they are going to be better though so we have to be prepared for that."

Coach Todd McLellan didn't have an update on Havlat, who also missed the final game of the regular season. The Sharks mixed up their lines after he left Game 1, but settled on former Canucks forward Raffi Torres in his spot late in the game. Spare forward Tim Kennedy, who had two goals in 13 games this season, could take Havlat's spot in the lineup if he isn't able to return for Game 2 on Friday.

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