Cory Schneider has taken the reins as the Vancouver Canucks' No. 1 goaltender, and it doesn't appear he'll be relinquishing them any time soon.
He'll make his 12th straight start Wednesday night when Vancouver seeks a fourth consecutive victory visiting the Calgary Flames.
Schneider entered the 2013 lockout-shortened season as the team's starting netminder after supplanting Roberto Luongo during Vancouver's first-round playoff loss to Los Angeles.
Though Schneider struggled at times to begin this campaign, he has made 25 starts for the Canucks (22-11-6) while posting a 2.06 goals-against average that ranks among the best in the league.
Since Luongo made his last start March 18, Schneider is 9-2-0 with a 1.29 GAA and four shutouts, and needed to make only 19 saves in Monday's 2-0 win over Phoenix.
Schneider has a 1.63 GAA while winning each of his three starts versus Calgary this season, stopping 36 shots in Saturday's 5-2 victory.
"It's just finding ways in games where you are not seeing a lot of shots and your team is playing well that you don't have that brain cramp, or that stand-around moment when you haven't seen a shot in 10 minutes and all of a sudden one sneaks through,' Schneider said. ``Part of it has just been me learning this year how to avoid those.'
Vancouver has outscored opponents 11-2 during its three-game winning streak and holds a slim lead on Minnesota for the Northwest Division lead. It got Ryan Kesler back Monday after the forward missed 20 games with a fractured foot.
Kesler, who scored in the first period, said he's looking forward to contributing during the Canucks' playoff run.
"I'm another piece to the puzzle," Kesler said. "There's a lot of pieces on this team and once we have them all together we're a good team."
Defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who also scored, said the return of Kesler and recent addition of center Derek Roy have made Vancouver a more dangerous team.
``With Kesler and Derek coming in, it was a lot more balance throughout our lines,' Hamhuis said. "It makes it easier and more fun, and as a team we're going to have way more puck possession with those guys in the lineup."
Calgary, meanwhile, has struggled. It had dropped five straight before Monday's 3-1 victory at Colorado, and it hasn't beaten anyone but the NHL-worst Avalanche since a win over St. Louis on March 24.
"Looking at our last two games against Vancouver and San Jose, I thought we could have won," coach Bob Hartley said. "I thought we could have deserved better, but if that's the price of learning then so be it."
Mike Cammalleri scored and Roman Horak added two assists for the Flames (14-20-4), who are likely to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
``I don't want to say it was one of those games that we had to win, but we are obviously extremely happy, and hopefully we can get a winning streak going,' Horak said. ``It was huge for us.'
Joey MacDonald made a season-high 39 saves Monday, but Miikka Kiprusoff could be back in net for this matchup. He lost each game during the previous losing streak while posting a 4.14 GAA.
Kiprusoff is 3-8-1 with a 3.96 GAA over his last 12 starts versus the Canucks, who have lost three straight at Calgary.
The Associated Press News Service
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