Canucks-Coyotes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 24, 2011
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo is healthy enough to start. Whether that means he actually will start is another story. Coming off a second straight stellar performance, backup Cory Schneider could be in net again looking to lead the Canucks to their first three-game winning streak of the season Friday when they visit the Phoenix Coyotes. Out since Nov. 13 because of an undisclosed upper body injury, Luongo deemed himself ready to play Wednesday against Colorado. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, however, wasn't too eager to send Schneider back to the bench after he stopped 28 shots in Sunday's 2-1 overtime win over Ottawa. Vigneault decided to give Schneider another start, and that proved to be a good decision - he finished with 24 saves in a 3-0 win. It was the second career shutout for Schneider and first for the Canucks (11-9-1) this season as Vigneault become the franchise's all-time winningest coach with 247 victories. "He made some incredible saves, some highlight-reel saves, but more importantly, he made the saves we expect him to make,'' Manny Malhotra said of Schneider. "When you have that kind of confidence in your goalie, a lot of good things are going to happen.'' Malhotra scored his first goal of the season Wednesday, while Alexandre Burrows recorded his sixth and Ryan Kesler added an empty-net goal. Luongo has played better this month, going 4-2-0 with a 2.30 goals-against average after going 3-3-1 with a 3.54 GAA in October, but Vigneault still might not be ready to disrupt Schneider's rhythm. This will be Vancouver's first meeting of the season with the Coyotes, and Luongo was in net for all four games of the 2010-11 series, going 2-2-0 with a 2.00 GAA with a shutout. He did win both games in Arizona. Schneider has never faced Phoenix (11-6-3). Whoever is in goal could have some trouble preventing Radim Vrbata from scoring. Vrbata had a pair of goals in Wednesday's 4-2 win over Anaheim, the Coyotes' fourth win in six games. Vrbata has five goals in the last three games, and leads the Coyotes with 11 in 20 games. He didn't score his 11th goal last season until Feb. 1, his 49th game. "You need some luck to score goals in this league and right now I'm getting a little bit of luck," said Vrbata, who had a goal and an assist against the Canucks last season. Phoenix is pleased that luck is on Vrbata's side. The Coyotes are 5-1-1 when Vrbata scores, and 6-5-2 when he doesn't. "(Vrbata) is a clever guy," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "He plays a smart game, finds the openings and creates some opportunities.'' Keith Yandle had a goal and an assist and Oliver Ekman-Larsson also scored for the Coyotes, who opened a three-game homestand following a 3-2-0 road trip. "A lot of teams when they come off a trip they have a down game,'' said Tippett, whose team is 4-1-1 at home since Oct. 27. "We didn't want that to happen." Mike Smith had another strong game between the pipes Wednesday, stopping 19 shots to improve to 8-1-1 with a 1.87 GAA in his last 10 games. In his only career start against the Canucks on Nov. 6, 2006, Smith stopped 24 shots in a 2-1 loss for Dallas. Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who has two goals and two assists in his last five games, had two goals and an assist against Vancouver last season.
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