Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canucks' goal won't be Lack-ing

Ex-Moose ready to back up Luongo

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PENTICTON, B.C. -- The tale of Vancouver Canucks goaltending has been a soap opera for years.

It will hardly bring big ratings, at least to start, but it seems a long-awaited new character is about to enter the plot. Former Manitoba Moose goalie Eddie Lack is deep into his rehabilitation of hip surgery last January and said this week that he'll be ready to go when the 2013-14 NHL season begins.

That's expected to be in the role as backup to jilted-now-restored Canucks starter Roberto Luongo.

"I've been feeling really good and skating for the last two months," Lack said this week, in Penticton and working out with the Canucks prospects' team that is competing at the Young Stars Classic tournament. "I feel like I'm ready to go for the season."

Nobody's handing Lack any security just yet -- especially with the change in coaches and the heat on team management after two quick recent playoff exits -- but his contract does kick up to a one-way deal for $850,000 for its final year this season.

Lack will no doubt get the chance to claim the job but insists he's ready for the role.

"I've played two-and-a-half years in the minors now and of course I had a really good year in Winnipeg," he said. "I had a lot of fun that year.

"Right now, I feel like I've been able to take care of some stuff that I haven't been able to before and I feel stronger and more compact as a goalie now than before the surgery."

The 25-year-old Swede, an off-the-wall individual with a wicked sense of humour, was a hit in Winnipeg for his one season with the Moose.

He was named to the AHL's all-rookie team as he posted 28 wins, a goals against average of 2.26 and a save percentage of 9.26.

The numbers were even better in the playoffs, when the underdog Moose won a seven-game first-round series and were eliminated in triple overtime of a second-round seven-game set with Hamilton.

Having spent the last two seasons with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, though most of last season on the injured list, Lack said he has missed the "buzz" of the pre-NHL season he spent in Winnipeg and looks forward to returning to it in Vancouver.

"The last couple of years I've kind of missed the attention, not me, but just to hockey," he said. "It's a good fan base in Chicago but it's not crazy like it is in Canada. I always like being around hockey, seeing a lot of hockey on TV, and on the sports."

Lack's development process hit a few bumps in the last two seasons and after his numbers in Season 1 in Chicago were similar to those with the Moose, his hip began to bother him early in 2013-14.

It was an irritation in the hip socket that caused a labrum tear.

"I played six or seven games before I got hurt and then I tried to battle through it another seven games and I didn't feel right," Lack explained. "We tried rehab for a couple of months and it didn't get better so we just decided to get the surgery and get it done with."

"I didn't really know what to expect. It was a little bit up and down but I have a really good support system here and I've talked to Dan Cloutier (Canucks goalie consultant), he's done two of these surgeries. And the doctors have been very good."

He said the injury affected more than just hockey.

"It wasn't just on the ice," Lack said. "It was every day everywhere. Just walking, just moving."

Now he hopes the looking forward means good health and that his first NHL game isn't far off.

Oh, and there's that Jan. 31 visit by the Canucks to Winnipeg, a day he wouldn't mind being part of.

"Had some texts about that one already," Lack said with a smile.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2013 B2

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