Canucks welcome back old fried Lack, Hurricanes
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Vancouver Canucks know plenty about the goaltender that they will face Sunday night — but not much else about the Carolina Hurricanes.
Eddie Lack, who spent five seasons with the Canucks organization, will start in goal for the Hurricanes (0-1-0) as they visit the Canucks (1-0-0) at Rogers Arena. But the Western Conference-based Canucks seldom battle the Eastern Conference-based Hurricanes due to the NHL's imbalanced schedule.
So Canucks winger Jannik Hansen needed only one word to describe what he knows about the 'Canes.
“Nothing,” said Hansen on Saturday night. “Maybe if Eddie Lack is in net, I know a little bit about them.”
He and the Canucks will soon discover that the Hurricanes are a young, fast offensively talented team considered to be on the rise — and, sometimes, they have decent goaltending. Lack will make his first start of the season as the Hurricanes try to make amends for a season-opening loss to the Jets in Winnipeg on Thursday.
Cam Ward will back him up after playing in Winnipeg.
“I'm very, very excited,” Lack told The Vancouver Province after the Hurricanes skated in Vancouver on Saturday. “Just being back and seeing old friends, and getting the season going for me.”
As a team, the Hurricanes are not feeling that good about their season opener. Carolina squandered a 4-1 third-period lead before bowing 5-4 in overtime to the Jets.
Lack will be looked upon to help his team tighten up defensively. That might not be difficult against the low-scoring Canucks, who won their season opener Saturday by edging the Calgary Flames 2-1 on former Hurricane Brandon Sutter's winning goal in overtime.
Although the Hurricanes have had a couple days of rest in Vancouver, the Canucks will be playing their second of back-to-back home games as they attempt to get off to a strong start at home.
“It's a quick turnaround,” Hansen said. “Let's get these back-to-backs out of the way early in the season when you are still feeling fresh and clear in the head.”
Hansen will try to beat the loquacious Lack on the ice after trading barbs with him in the dressing room during the goaltender's two full seasons with the Canucks before he was traded to Carolina prior to the 2015-16 season.
Lack, who also spent three seasons with Vancouver's farm teams while getting occasional call-ups, will also try to get the upper hand on old friend and fellow Swede Jakob Markstrom, who will make his first start in goal this season for the Canucks.
After being acquired from Florida in 2013-14 as part of the Roberto Luongo trade, Markstrom toiled mainly in the minors while he and Lack were in the Canucks organization together.
But even after Lack played reasonably well in 41 stars in 2014-15, Vancouver general manager Jim Benning decided to send him to the Hurricanes in the offseason.
Lack will make his second appearance against the Canucks since he was sent packing in exchange for a pair of 2015 and 2016 draft picks. A strong showing against the Canucks could launch his bid for more consistency this season.
Lack went 1-4-1, with a 3.28 goals against average and a .874 save percentage, in his first seven appearances with Carolina in 2015-16. He rebounded to finish with a 12-14-6 record. But the numbers paled in comparison to the 34-30-9 mark, 2.43 goals against average and .917 save percentage that he posted in two seasons as a full-fledged member of the Canucks.
“The start I had last year was horrendous,” he told The Vancouver Province. “I feel like I've done a good job this summer, putting everything behind me. I feel like I'm ready to go.”
Lack prepared for the start by digesting some tacos Saturday afternoon. He became known for his love of the traditional Mexican dish during his days in Vancouver. So he had tacos waiting for his teammates after they finished their practice.
“They asked if I could order something,” Lack told The Vancouver Province. “Obviously, I had to order that — right?”
If Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton has his way, the Canucks will dish out a strong effort against the Hurricanes.
“We know they are a good team,” Hutton told reporters. “They've got some good players and they are fast. We are going to have to come prepared.”
Hutton, a second-year rearguard who joined the Canucks after Lack left, is also known for his easy going nature. But he was stressing the need for self-discipline.”
“Back-to-back, we have to come out of the gate strong,” he said. “It's a lot about us, not really them. We have to control us and stick to our systems and stay within our structure and it should be fine.”
Accordingly, he was not willing to allow his teammates to let the possibility of fatigue from two games in as many nights enter their heads.
“It's going to be tough, but it's also good,” said Hutton. “You get right into it. There should be no excuses for being tired.”