VANCOUVER — It was like coming home for Eddie Lack on Tuesday.
The former Canucks goaltender — who currently plays for the Carolina Hurricanes — returned to Vancouver on Tuesday and stopped to sign autographs outside Rogers Arena. Inside he chatted with some of his former teammates, had a long conversation with Canucks goaltender coach Roland Melanson and shook hands with coach Willie Desjardins.
"It's fun seeing a lot of familiar faces," said Lack, who turned 28 on Tuesday. "It's been a while.
"I had a really good relationship with the fans and my teammates. When you get close to people like that you miss them."
Lack is expected to start Wednesday night when the Hurricanes play the Canucks. It will be his first game back in Vancouver since being traded to Carolina last June for a third-round draft pick in 2015 and a seventh-round pick in 2016.
"It was just a business call," Lack said about the deal. "They did what they thought was right for their team."
Both the Hurricanes and Canucks find themselves battling for a playoff spot.
Carolina (16-17-7) dropped a 1-0 decision to Edmonton on Monday and is sixth in the Metropolitan Division entering Tuesday's games. The Canucks, coming off a 3-2 loss to Arizona, were fourth in the Pacific Division with a 15-16-9 record.
Lack has a mediocre 5-6-3 record this season with a 2.96 goals-against average and .892 save percentage. He struggled early in the season, losing four of his first five starts. He has since turned his game around, winning four of his last six.
He also has not lost in regulation in his last six outings.
"I kind of just went back to basics," Lack said. "I am working a little deeper in the paint. That's what I was comfortable with before.
"You get that first (win), you get confidence and it's building. I feel like I am in a pretty good state in my game right now, mentally too."
Lack said his first few months in Carolina were tough.
"Hockey is my life," he said. "When the hockey is going bad, everything else is falling apart. It was hard.
"I put that behind me now. I'm just looking forward to the game tomorrow."
The six-foot-four 187-pound native of Norrtalje, Sweden, was never drafted. He played in the Swedish leagues and was signed by Vancouver in 2010.
At one time, Lack looked to be the heir apparent to Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. He took over the starting duties when Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers in March 2014.
Lack pays tribute to Luongo with a drawing of him on the back of his goalie mask.
"From the first training camp I thought he always treated me well and treated me with respect," said Lack. "He took me out for dinner and breakfast.
"I wanted to pay him back somehow."
Lack's fortunes changed when the Canucks signed Ryan Miller to a three-year contract in the summer of 2014. He spent that year as Miller's backup but took over the starting duties when Miller was hurt last February.
Lack even started for the Canucks during their first-round playoff series loss to Calgary. With Miller under contract and Jacob Markstrom playing well in the minors, the Canucks decided Lack was expendable.
"Up until a week before the trade I didn't think I was going," Lack said. "The more everyone was talking, I kind of knew. The last couple of days I just felt I was waiting to hear where I was going to play."
Lack's jovial personality and humour made him a fan favourite in Vancouver. He loves tacos and has signed a deal with a restaurant in Raleigh which serves the Lacko Taco.
"It's like steak with sour cream and a little spice to it," said Lack. "Just like my personality."
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press