VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks don't know who will be in goal when they try to avoid elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
Ryan Miller replaced Eddie Lack after the first period of a 3-1 loss in Calgary on Tuesday that left the Canucks down 3-1 in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series. But coach Willie Desjardins wasn't tipping his hand for Game 5 (10 p.m ET; CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
"I have decided, but, no, we’ll wait to see after the morning skate and then we’ll name it,” Desjardins said after practice Wednesday.
Miller's appearance in Game 4 was his second since spraining his right knee in a collision with a teammate on Feb. 22. The 34-year-old admittedly was rusty in a wide-open 6-5 win against the Edmonton Oilers in the regular-season finale on April 11, but he looked to be calm and more in control stopping all 15 shots he faced Tuesday.
Miller, who signed a three-year, $18 million contract as a free agent last summer to be the Canucks' No. 1 goalie, said he's ready for Game 5, even if his knee won't be fully recovered anytime this season.
"I'm not going to be 100 percent physically, but I know I can bring a lot with my approach and try to be efficient and contribute to managing our zone," Miller said. "I don't think it's something where physically it's going to be there this year, but you can make up for that kind of stuff with your approach and mentality, so in my case it's going to be about battling, competing, and kind of willing the puck out of the net."
Lack was 12-6-1 with a .927 save percentage after Miller was injured to help the Canucks earn second place in the Pacific Division and home-ice advantage against the Flames. Lack started well in his first Stanley Cup Playoff, but after he was beaten by two good power-play chances on four shots in Game 4, he got caught overplaying his angle on the third goal. He finished with three goals allowed on seven shots.
One of Lack's strengths after Miller was injured was bouncing back fast from a poor performance. That includes giving up five goals in a loss to the Winnipeg Jets, then stopping 36 of 37 shots to defeat the Los Angeles Kings and shutting out the Arizona Coyotes to secure a playoff spot. But he might not get a chance against the Flames.
"I just think about the next shot and I'm not really too caught up in everything, and obviously yesterday I got caught over-challenging a little bit," Lack said. "Kind of uncharacteristic of me I would say, and obviously something I am disappointed in, but it's a new day and [I'm] just looking forward."
Lack finished the regular season 18-13-4 with a .921 save percentage that was higher than Miller's .911. But Miller's 29-15-1 record was better, and the Canucks may see his experience as an asset as they try to avoid elimination, even if it's just slowing the game by taking faceoffs more often.
"I try to manage my zone a certain way," Miller said. "I was trying to take my time [in Game 4]. I just wanted to make sure we got the right change and keep things a little slower. I thought that might benefit us. I'll try to have that same approach if I can."