Originally Published: October 8, 2013

Devils at Canucks: The big moment is here

By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

Roberto Luongo-Cory SchneiderGetty ImagesCompared to each other for years as teammates, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider now go head-to-head.

As if the Vancouver media isn't already spoiled enough, gobbling up the daily gems from controversial coach John Tortorella, they are in for a veritable feast Tuesday when former Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider returns for the first time since being shipped to New Jersey in a surprising draft-day trade.

Schneider, of course, is a former Canucks first-round draft pick who spent the past three seasons splitting time with Roberto Luongo as part of the most talked-about goaltending tandem in hockey. In what played out like a Canadian telenovela, Luongo was the disgruntled employee who wanted out but found himself handcuffed to the organization by his albatross of a 12-year, $64 million contract that made him virtually immovable. Schneider was the young understudy who made the most out of an awkward situation, thriving when called upon and eventually earning the trust and favor of the Canucks organization.

Or so everyone thought.

That was until he was the one shipped out of town in a splash of a deal that rocked the draft-day floor back in June.

Though most everyone assumed the divorce between the Canucks and Luongo would be consummated soon after the lockout-shortened season ended, the two sides remain together. Instead, Schneider crossed coasts to join the New Jersey Devils and play alongside 41-year-old Martin Brodeur as GM Lou Lamoriello grooms a successor to the future first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Returning to Vancouver to face Luongo head-to-head will cause quite the media circus, as Schneider is well aware, but he doesn't want the hype to overshadow the task at hand. The 27-year-old had a tremendous preseason but gave up three goals in the team's season-opening 3-0 shutout loss to the Penguins last week.

"I'm sure it will be quite a big deal in Vancouver, but I don't want it to be a distraction and take away from our group," Schneider said, according to The Bergen Record.

Schneider, like many others throughout the NHL, was blindsided by the trade when he was acquired in exchange for the ninth overall pick, though it does not appear as if he's harboring any ill will toward the organization that selected him 26th overall in 2004.

"It's pretty recent, but I've moved on," Schneider said, according to The Record. "I dont know if everyone else has or not, but I'm all-in with this team and these guys."

Schneider can assume that everyone has not. The meeting of the two netminders, who despite the drama have had a friendly relationship, is certain to spark debate about whether Canucks general manager Mike Gillis did the right thing.

After the deal was made, Gillis said he felt Schneider was the easier asset to trade. The owner of the team, Francesco Aquilino, was dispatched to Luongo's summer home in Florida in an earnest attempt to repair a relationship that seemed, at least at times, irreparable.

So far, it remains to be seen what 34-year-old Luongo's lasting legacy in Vancouver will be. Remember, this is still the guy that got the team within one win of the Stanley Cup. It is also the same player whose struggles became so pronounced that the city seemed overjoyed when Schneider ascended to the No. 1 spot last season. So far, Luongo has given up six goals in two starts with a 1-1-0 record heading into Tuesday night's tilt.

And with 18-year-old Bo Horvat, who was selected (ninth overall) with the draft pick the Canucks received in the trade and is playing for his junior team, the London Knights, it's premature to draw conclusions about who came out on top in the deal. But one thing we do know. Tuesday night won't lack for storylines.

Katie Strang covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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