Canucks trying to stay alive against Kings

Canucks trying to stay alive against Kings

Canucks trying to stay alive against Kings

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by Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on April 20, 2012 at 8:06 AM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Roberto Luongo was the talk of the town as the Vancouver Canucks hoped to build on the momentum of their Game 4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

Speculation about Luongo's future with the Canucks was rampant after the goalie was benched for the second straight game, and backup Cory Schneider made 43 saves in a 3-1 win in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

With the victory, the Canucks staved off elimination, reducing their series deficit to 3-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference series that resumes Sunday in Vancouver.

Associate coach Rick Bowness said head coach Alain Vigneault and his staff wrestled with the decision to go with Schneider in the potential season-ending game.

"That's probably the most difficult decision Alain's had to make in our tenure here," Bowness said Thursday. "Anyways, that's what it was."

Vigneault switched goaltenders after Luongo lost the first two games. The Canucks lost 1-0 in Game 3, but Vigneault stuck with Schneider and the Cancucks were rewarded.

"You have no idea how incredibly difficult that was because of the amount of respect we have for Roberto, not only as a goalie and as a professional, but as a man," Bowness said.

Schneider has allowed just two goals in the past two games and sports a 1.02 goals-against average and .969 save percentage. Luongo has allowed seven goals in two games for a 3.59 average and .891 save percentage.

The switch has sparked considerable chatter because Schneider is due to become a restricted free agent. He will likely merit a considerable raise and could receive offer sheets from other clubs. The Canucks would have the ability to match any offer.

Luongo still has a decade to go on a 12-year contract, translating to a $5.33 million salary cap hit that would be difficult, but workable, for other clubs.

Daniel Sedin insisted the Canucks are comfortable with either Schneider or Luongo in goal. Sedin praised Luongo for handling the benching with class while maintaining a strong desire for the Canucks to win.

"We trust both goaltenders tremendously," Sedin said. "(Schneider) was great both in Game 3 and Game 4. So whoever's in net, we're going to play the same way in front of him. We trust they're going to get the job done."

And the task remains extremely difficult. The Canucks are trying to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers as the only teams that have come back from 3-0 deficits to win.

The Kings remain in control of the series, said both Bowness and Sedin.

"Even though they lost the game, they're in pretty," Bowness said.

The Canucks are feeling much better about their chances now that Sedin has returned from a concussion that kept him out of 12 games, including the first three of the series. He had an assist Wednesday and reignited Vancouver's dormant power play as the Canucks scored twice on three man-advantage opportunities while rallying from a 1-0 first-period deficit.

They had been blanked on 14 power-play chances until then, and also surrendered two short-handed goals.

Bowness said the power play gave the Canucks the "jump-start" they needed, and bestowed considerable praise on Sedin. But the modest winger insisted the Canucks started to turn things around when he was not there.

"If we play (Game 5) like we did Game 3, I like our chances," Sedin said.

He also liked the way his head and the rest of his body felt in his first game back. The biggest issue, he said, was getting his timing back, which proved difficult in the first period.

"My head was fine, and I didn't really worry too much about that," he said. "Once I got the first hit out of the way, that was no question to me."

Sedin knew he was ready to play after skating on his own for three hours Sunday in Vancouver. He feels lucky that he only missed a dozen games after the likes of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Washington's Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Steen of St. Louis missed considerably more.

"Every time you wake up, your head hurts and it's tough," Sedin said. "I talked to Backstrom and Steen. They were out a lot more than I was. So that must have been really tough. I was kind of fortunate in that way."

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