Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Luongo Does Not Want to Be Distraction to Canucks in Their Most Important Game: Luongo Vows to Be Good Backup to Schneider

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Luongo Does Not Want to Be Distraction to Canucks in Their Most Important Game: Luongo Vows to Be Good Backup to Schneider

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER - Six seasons ago, Roberto Luongo's attitude would have been different.

But now, the veteran goaltender is attempting to take his new backup role in stride as the Vancouver Canucks prepare to host their biggest game of the 2011-12 NHL season.

Cory Schneider is expected to start in goal for the Canucks on Sunday in Game 5 of their Western Conference quarter-final series with the Los Angeles Kings while Luongo watches from the bench for the third straight game.

"I'm much better at (dealing with being replaced) now than when I got here," Luongo said.

The Canucks, who finished first overall in the NHL for the second straight season, remain in a do-or-die situation against the Kings, the club that had to settle for the eighth and final playoff position in the West. Schneider made 43 saves as he backstopped Vancouver to a 3-1 victory Wednesday, but the underdog Kings lead the series by the same count.

Luongo is vowing not to be a distraction to the team, and will prepare as though he were starting in case he gets the call to go between the pipes at some point.

"I'm a competitor," said Luongo, who backstopped Canada to a 2010 Olympic gold medal on the same Rogers Arena ice where Sunday's game will be played.

"Obviously, you guys all know that, and it's tough (not to start). But at the same time, this is about the team, and I'm not going to put myself ahead of the team. We're in this together."

Coach Alain Vigneault said his decision to go with Schneider in Game 4 was not cut-and-dried, but he had to do what he felt was best for the team that day.

The decision to replace Luongo with Schneider has prompted considerable speculation about the nominal No. 1 netminder's future with the club. Luongo has a decade to go on his contract and Schneider is due to become a restricted free agent this summer.

But the goaltenders and Vigneault said now is not the time to be debating future crease occupants.

"Roberto's future is on Sunday," said Vigneault. "We've got to focus on Sunday. He's no different than a quarterback who's a hit (to another QB) away from going back in the game or Schneids taking a puck somewhere, etc. He's got to focus on Sunday -- like the rest of us."

The Kings scored seven goals on Luongo in the first two games, while another goal was scored into an empty net, en route to identical 4-2 victories in the first two games. Schneider has allowed just two goals while posting a loss and a win in the third and fourth games.

The 26-year-old Marblehead, Mass., native, who is in his second full season with the Canucks after three seasons in the minors, downplayed his elevation to playoff No. 1, noting he has just one post-season win on his record and Luongo posted 15 last spring as the Canucks reached the Stanley Cup final.

Still, Schneider relishes the chance to start with the season on the line. …

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