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30 in 15: Lack ready to take backup reins in net

by Mike Battaglino continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

Eddie Lack is ready to take over one of the most talked about positions in the NHL: backup goalie for the Vancouver Canucks.

"I always put the most pressure on myself," Lack told the Vancouver Sun. "I have done two-and-a-half years in the minors now. I feel ready to step into the backup role here and be a support for Roberto."

That's Roberto Luongo, who could use some support. The former starter-turned-backup turned starter again after Vancouver traded Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils at the NHL Draft.

The deal ended a much-discussed and endlessly analyzed goaltending controversy. But at 34 years old, Luongo is unlikely to play 70-plus games, as he did before Schneider showed up. So Lack could be called on for 15-25 starts this season, and the results in those games could decide the Canucks' playoff seed.

General manager Mike Gillis said Lack has to earn the spot, and he probably does. But the 25-year-old is on a one-way NHL contract worth $750,000 this season, and his primary competition, 23-year-old Joacim Eriksson, has a two-way contract he signed June 17 after playing professionally in Sweden.

"I think Eddie Lack's a really great goalie," Luongo said. "I've worked with him every year since he's been in the organization (April 2010), and he's played pretty well in the minors, so I think he's got a bright future and I'm sure if he had to step in he could do a great job for us."

New coach John Tortorella, who played Henrik Lundqvist 73, 68 and 62 games in three full seasons together with the New York Rangers, said he is not worried his two backup candidates have never appeared in an NHL regular-season game.

"I don't get nervous about things you can't control," Tortorella told the Sun. "This is what we have as far as our camp and so we'll let them fight it out. There is lot of things in this game you can't control. I am not going to get worried about it; we'll just go about our business."

Lack missed all but 13 games last season, needing surgery to repair a hip labrum in January. The 6-foot-5 Swede known as "Stork" did not start skating again until July, but he made 25 saves (on 27 shots) in two periods in his preseason debut Sept. 16 against the San Jose Sharks, then allowed four goals on 31 shots taken by the Edmonton Oilers on Sept. 21.

"I've been working so hard for this and I felt ready," Lack told the Canucks' website after facing the Sharks. "… I thought I played a pretty good game, my stick-handling was shaky sometimes, and I want a couple of rebounds back, but other than that I felt pretty good."

Lack was 56-45-8 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 112 American Hockey League games with Chicago and Manitoba. He's known to show a sense of humor on Twitter (@eddielack) and seems to have the personality to form a successful tandem with Luongo, himself a Twitter humorist (@Strombone1).

Lack's mask includes a picture of his father, because "My dad is watching every game even though it's 3 a.m. in Sweden, so I wanted him on there with me."

How much dad gets to watch will determine how much Lack is talked about.

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