Canucks likely to stick with red-hot Schneider
It seems unlikely that Roberto Luongo will go down in history as hockey's version of Wally Pipp, but backup Cory Schneider is not giving Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault any reason to go back to his No. 1 goaltender.
Schneider, anticipated to make a seventh straight start, looks to lead the Canucks to their sixth win in a row Thursday night against the struggling Nashville Predators.
Daniel Sedin, David Booth, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows all scored for Vancouver (14-9-1) in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Columbus, but Schneider was again the story of the game.
He made a career-high 47 saves and has a 0.79 goals-against average with two shutouts during the five-game winning streak, stopping 164 of 168 shots.
"You almost don't even think about it," Schneider said. "It just kind of happens and you're seeing the puck well and you're moving and you're anticipating."
Schneider was given a chance when Luongo sustained an upper body injury against the New York Islanders on Nov. 13. Luongo has been healthy enough to start the last four games, but Vigneault seems content to ride Schneider for as long as he can.
Luongo's demotion to the bench resembles the legacy of Pipp, who famously was replaced by Lou Gehrig in the New York Yankees lineup in 1925. Gehrig would go on to start the next 2,130 games.
Schneider had been used sparingly during most of his first three seasons with the Canucks, and although starting back-to-back games is not something he is accustomed to, he doesn't seem to be fazed.
"I haven't played this many games [consecutively] at the NHL level," Schneider said. "It's been a little while, but once you get into that rhythm, it's something you don't really forget."
Schneider has never faced the Predators (11-9-4).
Luongo got the start against Nashville on Oct. 20 in these teams' first meeting since Vancouver won in six games in last season's Western Conference semifinals. He stopped 25 shots in a 5-1 victory.
The Canucks built a 4-1 first-period lead on goals by Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Dale Weise and Chris Higgins, leading to the removal of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne before the start of the second period.
Rinne is mired in a career-worst five-game losing streak. He has a 3.44 GAA during his skid but played well Tuesday, stopping 28 shots in a 1-0 loss to Calgary. The Predators, who are concluding a five-game trip, fell to 1-4-1 in their last six contests.
While Rinne hasn't played well lately, Nashville's offence hasn't been much better. The Predators, who rank near the bottom of the NHL with an average of 26.2 shots, have been limited to two goals or fewer in five straight games.
"We have to get a little more greasy in these one-puck games where it's 1-0," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "You've got to get to the blue paint, get that mental drive and see if you can find a loose puck and put pucks in there.
"We need to get a little more of a shoot-first mentality."
Patric Hornqvist and Craig Smith, who are tied for the team lead with seven goals, have been mostly responsible for Nashville's offensive woes. Hornqvist hasn't scored in 10 games, while Smith's drought is at nine.
Kesler, meanwhile, has been heating up, registering three goals and four assists during the winning streak after recording two goals and five assists in his first 14 games.