By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER – Growing up in Sweden, Eddie Lack used to wake up in the middle of the night to watch NHL playoff games on TV.
Now he’s on the verge of taking centre stage.
The 27-year-old goalie has been the backbone of the Vancouver Canucks for the last two months, compiling a 12-6-2 record and a .927 save percentage to help guide the team to the playoffs after Ryan Miller went down with a knee injury in late February.
And while head coach Willie Desjardins played coy after Monday’s practice when asked about his starter for Game 1 of Vancouver’s first-round series against the Calgary Flames, all signs point to Lack getting the nod in Wednesday’s opener at Rogers Arena.
“It’s obviously something you were watching at home as a kid and everything,” Lack said of his playoff memories. “I’m just looking forward to getting out there.”
Lack was firmly entrenched as Vancouver’s No. 2 goalie until Miller got hurt, but has done well in big games this year after also taking over the crease last season following the trade of Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers.
“He’s given us a chance to win every night,” said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “He doesn’t have to be spectacular, he just has to be solid.”
Lack helped Vancouver to second in the Pacific Division this season after a disappointing 2013-14 campaign that saw the club miss the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Despite not yet being publicly named as Wednesday’s starter, Lack was talking like he would be getting the call, adding that he expects some jitters.
“I feel like I play my best when I have a little nerves,” said Lack. “It kind of gets me going a little bit.”
Desjardins admitted that keeping the identity of his starting goalie in house is just part of playoff hockey.
“It makes a difference knowing which goaltenders are going to start,” said the coach. “This time of the year you look for all the advantages you can get. It’s not that you don’t want to share information, but you want to win. So you try and find every edge you can. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.”
For his part, Miller didn’t sound like a goalie expecting to play in Game 1, saying “there’s still a lot of things I need to do to be competing at a high level” after Saturday’s 6-5 overtime victory against the Edmonton Oilers in the regular-season finale, his first action in almost seven weeks.
“Going out and playing a game that didn’t really mean a whole lot as far as the standings, that’s one thing,” he said. “But coming in possibly in a situation where it means a whole lot more, I want to be sharper and I want to have more control over my game. It’s pretty obvious there were parts of my game that were rusty.”
The easy-going Lack said it was nice to get a breather on Saturday after playing 22 of 23 games in Miller’s absence, but he’s also eager to feel the heat in the playoffs as Vancouver’s No. 1.
“I kind of feel like we’ve had pressure on us for a while now,” he said. “My mentality and everything isn’t going to change now. I’m just going to keep going.”
Notes: Canucks forward Brad Richardson, who has played just two games since mid-January because of a nagging foot injury, was a full participant in practice and said he hopes to be available for Game 1. … Shawn Matthias, who missed the last two games of the regular season, practised on a line with Richardson. … Lack is very active on social media, but announced over the weekend he will be staying off Twitter during the playoffs.
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