After days of uncertainty over a mysterious "body injury" that kept him out of the first two games of their playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, the Vancouver Canucks will get goaltender Cory Schneider back for tonight's third game of the Western Conference playoff series.
Schneider made the announcement himself, after Sunday's morning skate, noting that he was excited and ready to go.
"I'm just hoping I can come in and make a positive difference," said Schneider, who missed four games altogether. In Schneider's place, Roberto Luongo started the first two games against the Sharks, and according to team captain Henrik Sedin, gave them effective goaltending. But Schneider was the team's No. 1 goalie this season and at a time when the Canucks could use a lift – any sort of lift – down 2-0 in the series against the Sharks, then this was it.
Schneider had been practicing regularly since his injury and it looked as if he would be available to start the opener, but coach Alain Vigneault had other ideas, and elected to go with Luongo.
"I felt like I could play," said Schneider, "but I took a little time off and that seemed to help. Fortunately, we had the luxury of a guy like Roberto here, who made it so I wasn't pressed into action. That's not something that every team has. Loui's probably been our best player in the first two games."
In last year's playoffs, the Canucks inserted Schneider into the line-up under similar circumstances – with the team down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings after losing two games at home. He played well – posting a miniscule 1.31 goals-against average in his three outings – but the problem then is the same as the problem now, Vancouver's inability to score. Until Schneider can develop a better touch around the crease, he can't overcome the team's primary shortcoming.
All season long, the Canucks' inability to score goals with any sort of regularity has been their Achilles heel. The hope was that the trading-deadline addition of Derek Roy, plus Kesler's return to the line-up after an injury-filled regular season, would create the necessary scoring balance that was so characteristic of their teams the two previous years.
But while Ryan Kesler scored twice on Friday, the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, still can't get untracked, and no amount of line juggling by coach Alain Vigneault has permitted them to solve the defensive system Sharks' coach Todd McLellan has conjured up.
"This isn't a series that's a runaway by any means," cautioned McLellan. "It's a shot, it's a bounce, it's a post, and it can be reversed the other way. It's that even. I don't know where it's going to end, or what the final results will be, but I think you can probably put Alain and I up here (at the podium) when all is said and done, and we will tell you that. The two teams are that even."
The Sharks were 17-2-5 at the HP Pavilion in the regular season, but according to Sedin, home or road, it doesn't make a lot of difference at this juncture.
"In the playoffs, it's such a fine line," said Henrik Sedin. "You look at us, two years ago down here, we lost the first game and in the second game, they have a ton of power plays in the first period and weren't able to score and we come back in the second and get a few power plays and were able to score.
"That's usually the difference. I don't know if it's easier to play on the road. It's the playoffs. It's not going to change the way we play."
Schneider didn't even dress for the two games, with Joe Cannata suiting up as Luongo's back-up.
"It's almost harder to watch," said Schneider. "You get a little more nervous, with the swings of the game. When you're involved and in it, you don't notice those as much. I'm just excited to go."