Dirty Dining

Schneider still a backup as long as Luongo wins
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - According to Vancouver Canucks beat writer Hosea Cheung, goaltender Cory Schneider said he "doesn't cry himself to sleep" over Roberto Luongo starting ahead of him.

Considering Schneider was the sixth netminder off the board in Yahoo! fantasy drafts, fantasy owners might feel like weeping right now.

Luongo will get a third consecutive start Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks despite being Schneider's presumed backup to start the season.

The 26-year-old Schneider was dominant in a reserve role last season, going 20-8 with a 1.96 GAA and .937 save percentage in 33 appearances, and he officially announced his presence as the goalie of the future in Vancouver by giving up just four goals on 101 shots in 183 minutes in the team's playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings last April.

Apparently, the future hasn't arrived yet.

After trying to shop Luongo all over the league during the summer, the veteran was still on the team when the season kicked off.

Schneider was between the pipes for the season opener, but his reign only lasted 27 minutes as the Anaheim Ducks hit him for five goals on 14 shots. Luongo came on, played 33 minutes and has started the same number of games since.

Schneider looked to be getting back on track when he sticked away 34 of 36 shots in 65 minutes on Jan. 23 against the Calgary Flames and saved all 30 shots in a shutout of the Ducks two days later. But the San Jose Sharks found the net four times on 27 shots on Jan. 27 against Schneider and he hasn't seen the ice since.

Luongo went toe-to-toe with 2012 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick on Jan. 28 in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings, saving 26 of 28 in 65 minutes. And he pitched a shutout of his own two days later against Colorado with 24 saves.

According to Cheung, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault refused to get into the reasons behind why he pegged Luongo for the start Friday, saying, "At the end of the day, it's my call."

Luongo has always played well against the Blackhawks, going 14-9 with a 2.23 GAA and .929 save percentage in 27 regular-season appearances against them. And he has been just as good against the team as it is currently constituted. Since 2007-08, when Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp were rookies, Luongo has gone 10-5-2 with a 2.26 GAA against Chicago with three shutouts.

But Luongo has experienced meltdown after meltdown against that team in the postseason. He posted a GAA of 3.61 in 2008-09, 3.51 in 2009-10 and 2.97 in 2010-11 against the Blackhawks in the playoffs. So it's likely Vigneault's choice to go with Luongo Friday against the 6-0-1 Blackhawks has more to do with his current string of success than anything he did in the past against Chicago.

It's doubtful the Canucks will deal away Luongo while he's playing this well, especially since it will be a massive advantage to have two top-notch goaltenders available during this condensed season. Plus, third-stringer Eddie Lack will miss the next six months after undergoing hip surgery, so the team doesn't really have another capable backup.

With Vancouver also playing Saturday at Calgary, Vigneault will probably go back to Schneider, but if Luongo plays well Friday, he might get both games next week (at San Jose Tuesday and at Phoenix Wednesday). After Friday- Saturday, the Canucks don't play another back-to-back until Feb. 24-25.

That means Luongo will have to struggle for Schneider to see enough action to keep fantasy owners satisfied.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

Powered by The Sports Network.