Auld is the new man

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 12:47 PM ET

In Canucks country this week, Alex Auld is new and Rob McVicar or Wayne Flaherty will be borrowed from the Moose.

No. 1 goaltender Dan Cloutier went down midway through the first period in Denver Saturday night when Colorado Avalanche forward Andrew Brunette scored the first goal of the game. In the goalmouth collision with defenseman Nolan Baumgartner, Cloutier hit the post and ice in a chain reaction. The veteran netminder suffered a concussion and was helped off the rink before being sent to hospital for tests.

Backup Alex Auld replaced Cloutier for the second game in a row and has been thrust into the top spot on the team's roster while Cloutier recovers.

"I feel like I'm ready for this," Auld said after Monday's practice at General Motors Place. "But I hope Dan gets better soon."

Auld, a 24-year-old from Thunder Bay, Ont., has played 14 times in three previous regular seasons. He was 1-2 after relieving an injured Cloutier in the first round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Calgary Flames in 2004. His win was a 5-4 triple overtime triumph. Last season, Auld won 25 times in 42 appearances for the Manitoba Moose, Canucks' Winnipeg-based American Hockey League farm team.

During the first month of 2005-2006, Auld started and won three times.

"Everyone wants to be No. 1 and wants to prove that you have to earn your ice," he said. "You can't look too far ahead, it's here now. Just be ready to take it game-by-game. I've got to make sure I get lots of rest this week and work hard, too, in practice and make sure I'm sharp."

At yesterday's Canucks' skate, assistant equipment manager Jamie Hendricks took Cloutier's spot between the pipes. He's likely to do so again today while Canucks wait for a professional backup to arrive tomorrow from Manitoba. Head coach Marc Crawford did not say who it would be. First priority, he said, is an update on Cloutier's brain bruise.

Canucks can choose from Rob McVicar, who is 2-1 with a 2.25 goals against average, or veteran Wade Flaherty, who is 4-2 with a 1.74 goals against average and two shutouts.

"It's a great time for (Alex) to get that opportunity when he is at the top of his game, as opposed to a guy that's not got a lot of confidence coming in," Crawford said. "We're really pleased where he's at and this will be a very strong challenge for him."

Tomorrow night, Canucks face Minnesota Wild for the fourth time. The Northwest division's second place squad makes its first appearance at General Motors Place after Vancouver making three forays into St. Paul, Minn.

Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets fly in Friday night, minus Vancouver Giant Gilbert Brule. North Vancouver's budding superstar, drafted sixth overall by Columbus, won't make his local NHL debut because he is out until December with a fractured sternum suffered in the first week of play against Calgary.

Canucks themselves catch the redeye Friday night for Calgary where they'll meet the Flames Saturday and Monday. It'll be the rivals' first meetings since that 2004 playoff series won by eventual Stanley Cup-runner-up Calgary.

Flames are not burning brightly. In fact they begin the second month of play with a 4-7-2 record in last place in the Northwest Division. Goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff has played all but one of those games.


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