Canucks coach on sitting Luongo, starting Schneider: “It’s a no-brainer”

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Despite declaring himself ready to play, Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo won’t be in net tonight when Vancouver plays Phoenix. Instead, backup Cory Schneider will get his fourth-consecutive start — a decision deemed “a no-brainer” by assistant coach Rick Bowness.

“There are times when you really don’t have to work your brain too hard to make that decision,” Bowness told the Vancouver Sun. “[Schneider] is coming off a 2-1 win and then pitches a shutout. It’s a no-brainer. He’s playing great and he deserves to be right back in there and he is.”

PHT’s covered the Luongo-Schneider situation extensively (which has nothing to do its two newest writers being from Vancouver), and our very own Jason Brough wrote this prior to Vancouver’s 3-0 win over Colorado on Wednesday:

So…what happens if Schneider is brilliant again tonight? The 25-year-old has the superior stats (2.52 GAA, .912 SV%) compared to Luongo (2.97 GAA, .896 SV%). If Vigneault’s “the best players will play” mantra is sincere – and based on his willingness to make big-money defenseman Keith Ballard a healthy scratch, it’s hard to say it’s not – how will he approach his goaltending situation going forward? Does he ride the hot hand while Luongo wears the ball cap on the bench?

Schneider was brilliant against the Avs (stopping all 24 shots for his first shutout of the year), and Vigneault approached his goaltending situation the way many have clamored for. He’s riding Schneider’s hot hand and making Luongo wear the ball cap.

The big question now is what Luongo and his 12-year, $64-million deal think about all this. Upon learning he wouldn’t play against Colorado (after announcing he was healthy) Luongo temporarily halted goalie controversy talk by saying, “we have the luxury of two good goalies here, Schneids is giving me a couple extra practices here to make sure my timing is back.”

But Luongo added he was practicing under the assumption he’d be back in goal Friday against the Coyotes.

Now it’s Friday, and Luongo is back on the pine.

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.