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Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis will watch with intrigue the progression of minor league goaltender Eddie Lack in the coming day and months.
Speaking on Team 1040 radio Thursday morning, Gillis lauded Lack's recent work less than a day after the Chicago Wolves netminder recorded the second of back-to-back wins this week for the Canucks' farm team, which forced a fifth and deciding game in its best-of-five AHL Western Conference quarter-final with the San Antonio Rampage.
"He's definitely going to be a National Hockey League goal-tender at some point; he's that good," Gillis told the radio station.
"Just not sure if he'll be absolutely ready and we may not know until next September if he's completely ready."
The Wolves trailed 2-0 in the series, but staved off elimination with a pair of wins on home ice, and Lack's recent play is a big reason why.
The 24-year-old from Nor-rtalje, Sweden, was sensational in a 3-1 Game 4 win against the Rampage, stopping all but one of the 31 shots fired his way, including 15 saves in the first period alone. He's now allowed just three goals on the last 51 shots faced.
The Wolves had all of just 15 shots on goal Wednesday, but found a way to extend the series.
Steve Reinprecht scored twice, and Tim Miller iced the win with an empty-net goal late in the third period.
"It was just one of those nights that I needed to step my game up a little bit," said Lack in a phone interview.
"I really felt like the boys needed me [Wednesday]. They've been so good to me this whole year, they've scored timely goals for me, so I just wanted to give that back to them."
Home ice advantage has been the dominant factor in this series. The Wolves lost games 1 and 2 in San Antonio, but have won two of the three games so far in Chicago.
"It's just 50/50 right now as to who is going to win it," said Lack.
"We are the better team when we play like we want and in a huge game like [Friday], I think everyone is going to step it up and everyone's going to have a good game."
Depending on what changes Gillis decides to make at the goaltending position this summer - it's believed the GM will move either Roberto Luongo, who said earlier this week after the Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs that he'd be willing to waive his no-trade clause, or Cory Schneider - Lack could potentially land the backup position when training camp concludes in the fall.
"Eddie's very close," Gillis said. "He's a very good goalie, he's big, he's got great skill. We're going to watch him closely in the playoffs here with Chicago."
The Canucks brass may only have one more opportunity to see Lack before September. Game 5 of the series goes Fri-day (5: 30 p.m. PDT) at the All-state Arena in Chicago.
It's a safe bet the Abbots-ford Heat are keeping an eye on what happens between the Wolves and Rampage. The Heat, who eliminated the Milwaukee Admirals with a 4-2 win Wednesday to cap off the franchise's first ever post-sea-son sweep, will play either the Oklahoma City Barons or Toronto Marlies in the second round.
If Chicago wins and advances to the next round, the Heat will play Oklahoma City, the top team in the conference during the regular season. A San Antonio win, and the Heat play the No. 2-seeded Marlies.
"Whoever we play next, we'll be ready for them and I heard Chicago - is going to Game 5 so that gives us a little bit more of a break here and I think it's needed," said Heat forward Dustin Sylvester.
A schedule for the next round has yet to be determined
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