Canucks' birthday boy Eddie Lack would like shot at redemption against Islanders
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Eddie Lack, the birthday boy, had his back turned, completely unaware of the imminent surprise.
Sitting among his teammates for a "team photo," Lack was unsuspectingly doused with a bucket of water from rookie Bo Horvat, who snuck up behind the Vancouver Canucks backup goalie to deliver the liquid jolt.
Happy birthday. Lack, a popular figure amongst his teammates and fans for his sense of humour, turns 27 years old.
The past year was an eventful one for Lack. Even though it was his birthday, he couldn't escape the questions about the possibility of facing his old teammate and buddy Roberto Luongo, now tending the net for the Florida Panthers, on Thursday at Rogers Arena.
It would be Luongo's highly anticipated return to Vancouver since the trade deadline blockbuster that sent him to Florida last March.
Lack also couldn't escape questions about possibly facing the New York Islanders on Tuesday. Last year, on March 10, Lack was in net for a historical third-period collapse from the Canucks on home ice against the Islanders.
The Canucks allowed seven goals in the final 20 minutes. They lost the game 7-4 after skating to a three-goal lead through 40 minutes.
The unimaginable had happened, and on a day when former general manager Mike Gillis wrote a letter to season ticket holders asking for patience with the team and organization in the midst of a tumultuous second-half fall.
The experience was perhaps akin to a bucket of ice-cold water dumped on you, except without the laughter, humour or anything of a positive nature.
Tuesday could be a shot at redemption, especially for Lack, who has appeared in 11 games this season.
"That was probably the worst game of my pro career," said Lack, who admitted he'd like to start in one of these next two games.
"It was something that even during the summer, when I was working, it gave me more motivation, thinking back on that game. Obviously I want one more shot at."
Lack hasn't played a game since Dec. 17.
Ryan Miller, now the No. 1 in Vancouver, has been on quite a roll of late, winning four of his last six starts. He's also allowed two or fewer goals in five of those six starts and was sensational in Saturday's win versus Detroit.
He also might need another rest. Miller admitted prior to the holiday break that fatigue was becoming an issue. He has started in each of Vancouver's last six games.
Head coach Willie Desjardins said there isn't really a plan on when to get Lack back into the net. He also downplayed the idea that individual motivation for Lack facing the Islanders might factor into his decision on a starting goalie.
"He's certainly deserves a start. He's a good goalie and I have lots of confidence in him," said Desjardins.
"I think there's a little bit to that, because sometimes you do have a bad match-up, but I don't think he's played the Islanders enough to have it be labeled that way."
SHAWN MATTHIAS REFLECTS ON WINNING GOLD
Hockey's greatest rivalry lives on. Team Canada faces Russia in the gold medal game of the 2015 World Junior Championship in Toronto on Monday (4:30 p.m. PT).
Canucks forward Shawn Matthias, who won gold with Canada at the 2008 tournament in the Czech Republic, will be watching.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of guys. This might be the last shot you get to play with Team Canada and the last chance you ever get to go for a gold medal so just leave it all out there," said Matthias.
"When you win that tournament, there's no better feeling."
Matthias recalled that he didn't get an assist on the "golden goal" in overtime, but he set it up.
Matthias picked up a loose puck along the boards in the Sweden zone, drove to the net and Matt Halischuk, now with the Winnipeg Jets, banged home the rebound, setting off an uninhibited celebration.
"I didn't know what happened, all of a sudden I see (teammates coming off the bench) so I just ran to the first guy. I've known (Halischuk) since were little kids, so to have that moment with him and see him score that goal, I was so happy with him," said Matthias.
"That celebration was crazy. Guys were flipping all over."
Now, this year's crop of Canadian players can carve out their own story of winning gold -- on home soil.
"If they win this tournament in Canada, it will be something out of control," said Matthias.
ALEX BURROWS REUNITED WITH SEDIN TWINS
Alex Burrows, who has recently injected new life into Vancouver's power play by creating havoc in front of the opposition's net, skated on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin at Monday's practice.
Call it a reunion.
That trio dominated teams for years after it was formed in 2009. When Burrows has been on the ice with the twins, Daniel and Henrik's individual Corsi For percentages have never dipped below 56 per cent, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com.
Radim Vrbata was moved onto a line with Nick Bonino and Chris Higgins.
The Sedin twins, 34, and Burrows, 33, are in the latter years of their career, but Desjardins is hoping they can rekindle that dominant style from the past.
"I think his history influences me more than anything," Desjardins said.