Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider

Vancouver backup Schneider gets nod Saturday


In the wake of another underwhelming performance by Roberto Luongo, Canucks backup Cory Schneider will start Saturday at home to Columbus.

Vancouver’s lost four of five, its only win coming last Thursday when Schneider started against Winnipeg.

Luongo, on the other hand, allowed 16 goals in the four losses — all of which he started — while registering a lowly save percentage of .846.

Wednesday he surrendered five goals in a 5-4 home loss to the Coyotes.

All of which begs the question, what if Schneider plays well against the Jackets and the Canucks get the win?

“If I went in [Saturday] and played one game, then came out again, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Schneider said. “But if I went in and played a good game and got to play the next two or three, I wouldn’t be surprised, either. I think I’ve learned this year to be ready.”

He added: “Nothing against Lou – I think he’ll be fine and will be the goalie we’ve seen for 90 per cent of the season. But if it happens that we need to string a few together and I’m the guy, I’ll be ready.”

The Canucks needed Schneider to string a few together in October and November when Luongo was hurt – and when the backup kept winning, coach Alain Vigneault rode the No. 2 even after the No. 1 was healthy enough to play again.

But it’s not early in the season anymore – the playoffs are less than a month away. So you can see how this could get awkward.

The fact is, Schneider’s numbers (.932 SV%, 2.09 GAA) are considerably better than Luongo’s (.916 SV%, 2.48 GAA). And though Schneider, 25, doesn’t have near as much playoff experience, you could easily argue he gives the Canucks the best chance to win.

With Jonathan Bernier sputtering, we’ll meet Garret Sparks

Garett Sparks
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You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.

With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.

Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).

In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:

Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.

Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.

Video: Dylan Larkin adds to his rookie goals lead

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So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.

The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.

No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.

He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)

Lightning lament life as a .500 team

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.

After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:

Record at the end of October: 5-5-2

Record at the end of November: 11-11-3

As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.

The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?

Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.

They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.

The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?

Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.