Under Pressure: Roberto Luongo

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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Vancouver Canucks, we pick…goalie Roberto Luongo.

Full disclosure: we were going to pick Ryan Kesler for this, because 1) there’s quite a bit of pressure on Kesler to return to form, and 2) everyone’s kind of sick of the Canucks’ goaltending saga.

But we just couldn’t do it — nobody’s under more pressure this season in Vancouver than Luongo, for these reasons:

1) His reputation is on the line. Earlier this month, he said his goal is to “get back to where I was two years ago and re-establish myself as one of the best in the league.” Luongo finished the 2013 season with a .907 save percentage, his lowest mark since his rookie season with the Islanders.

2) There’s no legitimate Plan B for the Canucks. Vancouver’s backup is probably going to be Eddie Lack, a 25-year-old who’s yet to make his NHL debut and is coming off hip surgery. Which is to say, Lack is no Cory Schneider. Not yet anyway. If Luongo isn’t good, the Canucks could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

3) The Olympics. Luongo wants to play for Team Canada again. “This is a big year for me,” he said. “I have been sitting on the bench for a while and I want to show everybody what I can do. We all know it’s an Olympic year so I just want to make the best of it.”

On top of all that, Luongo’s long-term future in Vancouver is far from clear, even though the 34-year-old is signed through 2021-22. Remember, the Canucks still have one of their compliance buyouts remaining. And while ownership was obviously loathe to use it this past summer, if Luongo struggles badly this season, the pressure from fans (a.k.a. customers) to use it next June will be immense. Vancouver hockey fans pay some of the highest ticket prices in the NHL. In return, they expect ownership to use its deep pockets to put the best team possible on the ice.

But that debate can wait for later, if necessary. (We don’t even want to get into the whole “Luongo might not actually mind getting bought out” angle.)

Luongo, by the way, didn’t get off to the best start in the preseason; on Wednesday, he allowed four goals in the first 12:24 versus the Oilers, including this stinker:

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

Logan Couture can at least speak and eat following horrifying mouth injury

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As much as many of us suffer during a trip to the dentist, few can fathom the horrors hockey players often go through when a puck, stick or fist finds their teeth/mouths. Consult this vintage PHT post from 2010 if you want to cringe, a lot.

Much like Eddie Lack “only” dealing with a neck sprain, it’s strange to be heartened to hear that Logan Couture can speak and eat after his own painful ordeal, but that’s the positive update from the Mercury News on Tuesday.

Couture, Wilson said, did not need to have his jaw wired shut after a deflected puck caught him in the mouth on Saturday when the Sharks played the Nashville Predators.

“Hey, he can speak and eat … and his jaw isn’t wired shut!” Yeesh.

To little surprise, Couture isn’t playing on Tuesday. As far as the Sharks next three games (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), that remains to be seen.

As an aside, consider this: on the same day Jonathan Drouin‘s celebrating his birthday after helping the Lightning win, Couture is lucky if he can force down some birthday cake. Life: it isn’t always fair.

PHT discussed his trip to the dentist on Monday.

Athanasiou got hurt during that Lack collision, too (and he blames Rask’s hit)

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The Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings both exchanged signs of respect after Eddie Lack left last night’s game on a stretcher, but there’s a little controversy surrounding that situation … from the Red Wings’ perspective.

You see, Andreas Athanasiou may not have collided with Lack if not for a shove/cross-check by Hurricanes forward Victor Rask.

Athanasiou is out for the Red Wings tonight, and as the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James reports, he blames the Rask hit.

Here’s a screen grab of that moment via NBCSN/the Fox Sports broadcast:

Now, check it out in full motion:

It’s unfortunate that two injuries came of that overtime-clincher, though one may at least mildly defend Rask in noting that Athanasiou was really displaying his blazing speed on that play.

The Red Wings could very well be eliminated tonight, or soon, but Athanasiou has been a bright spot during a sometimes-glum season for Detroit. Hopefully, like Lack, this is merely a minor issue from an unfortunate collision.

More promising Eddie Lack news: Hurricanes label his injury a neck strain

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Yes, it feels a little weird to “cheer” a neck strain, but such injury news feels pretty fantastic for Eddie Lack.

The Carolina Hurricanes announced that he’s dealing with exactly that on Tuesday morning, not that long after Lack’s scare after being stretchered off the ice following a collision with Detroit Red Wings Andreas Athanasiou.

Lack ended up being hospitalized, but as it turns out, that was a pretty short-term situation.

With the positive news in mind, it’s already appropriate to wonder when Lack might be back, particularly since he’s been on quite a tear during Carolina’s unlikely push for a possible playoff spot. The Hurricanes didn’t provide a window of time for his recovery, and Lack himself was vague-if-positive:

In the mean time, the Hurricanes recalled Alex Nedeljkovic, who one would assume would primarily back up Cam Ward.

So, long story short: things seem very positive for Lack, though his rehab process remains cloudy.

Bruins recall McIntyre from AHL on emergency basis

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Update: As it turns out, Anton Khudobin might be the goalie dealing with an injury, according to the Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy. So, tonight’s starter boils down to Tuukka Rask or Zane McIntyre.

(Rask it is.)

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Tuukka Rask was supposed to be back in goal for the Boston Bruins tonight.

But then, just a couple of hours before their game with the Nashville Predators, the B’s announced they’d recalled goalie Zane McIntyre from the AHL on an emergency basis.

It’s not yet clear why McIntyre was recalled. Rask missed Saturday’s game in Brooklyn with a lower-body injury, but coach Bruce Cassidy said earlier today that Rask was healthy and ready to go.

“Tuukka is healthy,” said Cassidy. “That’s what he indicated to me and that’s all I needed to hear. He’ll be our starter tonight.”

If Rask is unable to play, expect Anton Khudobin to get the nod.

Khudobin backstopped the B’s to a 2-1 victory over the Isles on Saturday.