Cory Schneider

Shocker: Canucks start Cory Schneider over Roberto Luongo in Game 6

When you need to change your luck in the NHL sometimes you’ll change your sticks or a piece of your gear or shuffle the lines. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault is doing something a bit more drastic in tonight’s Game 6 by starting backup goalie Cory Schneider instead of Roberto Luongo.

The move comes on the heels of two consecutive blowouts with Luongo being the victim for six goals against in 44 minutes of play in Game 4 and four goals against on 12 shots in Game 5. Schneider relieved Luongo in both games and allowed one goal in each game as the Canucks were blown out in Game 4 8-2 and 5-0 in Game 5.

The message here is clear from Vigneault in that he needs to let Luongo breathe a bit after being victimized so badly in the last two games. The risk that he runs by making this move in the middle of the series and at the start of the playoffs is that if Vancouver wins and moves on to the second round, there will no doubt be a huge goalie controversy heading into the second round.

If Vancouver loses and the series goes to a seventh game, then you’re left wondering just who is going to get the call to start in Game 7. Do they go with Vezina Trophy finalist Luongo who apparently needed a break after being lit up in back to back games, or do they opt for Schneider who they felt was good enough to sit down the five time All-Star goalie to get them back on the winning side of things in Game 6? It sets up for a fascinating debate either way things work out and puts Vigneault in a very tough spot from here on forward.

It also makes you wonder just how badly the Blackhawks have gotten into Luongo’s head. After looking stellar in a shutout in Game 1, the Blackhawks kept whittling away at him and finding ways to score goals the rest of the way through the series. If it’s a case where Luongo is mentally exhausted in dealing with Chicago in the playoffs, that makes us wonder just how potential future opponents in the playoffs are going to treat him. Chances are they’ll be watching a lot of tape to see what it is Chicago does to make him so batty.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?