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Schneider gets another startl Raymond ready for Canucks

by Kevin Woodley /

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has been loath to tinker with a winning lineup, but after watching his team get outshot 48-34 in Tuesday's win against Columbus he's willing to make changes.

But those changes won't include the goaltender -- not after Vigneault labeled Cory Schneider the best player on the ice in a 4-1 victory against the Blue Jackets. So it was no surprise to hear Schneider will make a seventh straight start - his fifth while playing ahead of a healthy Roberto Luongo -- against visiting Nashville on Thursday, even if Luongo is already tiring of the topic.

"I know this is a big story but I don't want to keep addressing it every day," Luongo said after practice Wednesday. "I appreciate the appetite for it, but I'm a team guy, I'm behind Cory, we're winning games, all is good. I'll be ready to go when it's my turn and that's the bottom line. It's all about the team. It's not about me. … I know you guys have a lot of interest but it's not something we want to be talking about every day. We've got two great goalies here. We both can play. We're both No.1s."

Vigneault, who insisted Luongo is his No. 1 goalie a day earlier, actually called him 1A and Schneider 1B on Wednesday, but with Schneider No. 1 in the entire NHL over the last five games while stopping 164 of 168 shots, it's hard to argue with his decision. Still, the coach understands it could become a testy one for the incumbent.

"I understand how unpleasant it could become," Vigneault said, "But at the end of the day he's a professional, it's part of his responsibilities. Knowing him, he wants to win, team is winning right now and I'm sure when we need him he's going to be ready."

While the goalie remains the same, the players in front of Schneider will change.

Mason Raymond will play his first since breaking his back in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Raymond, who was cleared for contact more than a week ago and told the coaches he was ready to return Saturday, will debut on the third line alongside Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen. Judging from practice Wednesday, Manny Malhotra drops to the fourth line and Aaron Volpatti heads for the press box as a healthy scratch.

The speedy Raymond spent most of the past two seasons on the second line, scoring 25 goals in 82 games two years ago and 15 in 70 last season. But he hasn't played since June 13, when an awkward hit from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk left him with broken vertebrae in his back, and in a body brace for two months, giving him a new perspective on a game he wasn't sure he'd play again. Being patient with his comeback is part of it.

"It's a little like starting from scratch," he said. "I just went from Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs to Game 25 of the regular season. It's going to be different. Once I get into the game I will feel more comfortable. But is that going to take some time to get back to game shape and game mode? Yeah, but I'm very pleased with the process."

The defense may also change, with Sami Salo skipping practice after tweaking his groin Tuesday and leaving in the third period. He will be reevaluated Thursday, with Aaron Rome most likely to come back into the lineup after three games if Salo can't play.

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