Heading into the season, the Vancouver Canucks' coaching staff and management made it clear they wanted to reduce the workload of starting goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Since joining the Canucks prior to the 2006-07 season, Luongo has averaged 68 starts a season and has 25 under his belt through the team's 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday.
With the Canucks playing 19 games in the next 38 days leading up to the NHL all-star game, including four back-to-back situations, it appears backup Cory Schneider will be starting more frequently.
"He's obviously going to get his fair share of games here," head coach Alain Vigneault said. "We've got quite a tough schedule ahead of us, we've got a lot of confidence in him so we're going to play him."
Schneider is still adjusting to going from being the guy counted on night-in and night-out to the guy sparingly used.
The native of Marblehead, Mass., has routinely started from 40 to 60 games over the past five seasons with Boston College and then Vancouver's American Hockey League affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.
This season however, the man they call Schneids will be lucky if he sees 20 starts in the Canucks' crease.
"Its' difficult," Schneider explained. "It's a different mindset for me and a different way to approach things, but once you're in the game, the game doesn't change. It's my job to be prepared, and be ready, for whenever I do play."
The 24-year-old will make his sixth start of the season at some point this week as the team makes its way through a stretch of four games in six nights. A road trip, which begins Monday against the St. Louis Blues, includes back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday in Detroit and Columbus.
Through his first five starts, Schneider is 3-0-2 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average.
Part of his routine, with lengthy gaps between starts, is fast-paced practices with team goaltending coach Roland Melanson.
"Practice habits are a little different and are a little more intense - almost using practices like games," Schneider said. "Rollie has me playing a little deeper in the net, trying to stay in the paint, not get overexcited or get [too far]out of my net and get caught on rebounds or back-doors."
The Canucks understand the transition has been difficult for Schneider, but feel he's in the best situation to develop.
"I'm sure he'd rather play more," Vigneault admitted. "At the same time he's learning through practice, watching [Luongo]and also working with Rollie. We're confident that when we're going to need him, he's going to be real ready."
Off the ice, Schneider, who recently completed a finance degree at Boston College after handing in his final assignment two weeks go, said he's finally feeling comfortable in the city.
"Its' nice to finally kind of settle down here instead of being in a hotel and worrying about when you're going to get shuttled back [to Manitoba]" he said. "I'm renting a spot here in downtown Vancouver so it's working out well."
Special to The Globe and Mail