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Roberto Luongo watches from bench after being given hook in Edmonton

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Roberto Luongo watches from bench after being given hook in Edmonton

The Canadian Press
By:

VANCOUVER - Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo will get a rare night off at home Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues.

Cory Schneider gets the start.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said that was always the idea. But he wouldn't divulge details on the scheduling plan he shares with his goalies and team on a game-by-game basis.

"Well, whatever I have, it's obviously a basic plan with our goalies and I'm not going to share it with you," Vigneault said after the Canucks pre-game skate Wednesday.

Luongo was pulled in the second period of Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to Edmonton after giving up three goals on 14 shots, smashing his stick against the boards as he left the ice.

The 2010-11 Vezina Trophy nominee has posted two wins and four losses while allowing 19 goals for a 3.46 goals-against average and .868 save percentage this season. His inconsistent play has generated no shortage of discussion on local sports radio talk shows the past week.

Luongo also got off to a slow start last year, losing five of his first six games.

But Vigneault said Luongo has received more criticism than he deserves, adding Luongo has been among the top three or four in several NHL goaltending categories since the 2004-05 lockout ended.

"So you do what you want with him," said Vigneault. "We know what we have to do.

"We know we've got a great person and a great goaltender, who works really hard in October."

Luongo was unavailable for comment after an optional morning skate which he and most other players skipped. The veteran goalie has admitted he isn't proud of his October funk, which has persisted throughout his career, but says he hasn't found a way to overcome it.

Vigneault said the Canucks must play better as a team. The coach is trying to figure out why his squad has struggled the first month of the season ever since he took over behind the bench.

"It's my sixth year here and you look at the stats and you look at how we've played and how our goaltender plays and it's been a challenging month," said Vigneault. "But come November…"

Luongo and the Canucks both have a history of rebounding come the second month of the season.

Wednesday's start marked Schneider's fifth appearance in 11 games, a stark contrast to last season when he played sparingly. Throughout Luongo's tenure with the Canucks, the club has confined most of his rest days to road games.

Meanwhile, the Blues were dealing with goaltending issues of their own. Backup Brian Elliott was scheduled to make his third straight start after posting consecutive wins in place of struggling incumbent Jaroslav Halak.

Elliott is getting a chance to play despite being with his third team in a year.

Elliott was dealt from Ottawa to Colorado last season, then signed with St. Louis in July after the Avalanche chose not to re-sign him. Halak, who two seasons ago led Montreal to the Eastern Conference final, has just one win in five games this season.

"We're very comfortable with the two guys we have," said St. Louis coach Davis Payne. "(Halak) is our (No. 1) goaltender. He's a great goaltender.

"He's going to win a lot of hockey games for us this year—when that starts happening again. We'll announce that as it goes."

Halak took his benching in stride, saying Elliott deserved to start.

"It's only October," said Halak. "We're not even halfway through (the season.)

"It's always good when you have two goalies who can play."

NOTES—Blues winger David Perron, sidelined almost a year due to a concussion, is skating with the club but still has not been cleared for contact. He and Payne said Wednesday there is no timeline on his return. Perron is participating in his first road trip after joining the team late in training camp.

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Roberto Luongo watches from bench after being given hook in Edmonton