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CINCINNATI -- The Moose learned yesterday they'd be without goalie Alex Auld for at least the next week due to a concussion. Auld was hit in the head during Thursday's shootout loss in Cleveland when he collided with Barons forward Riley Armstrong. Auld left his net to charge a loose puck and slid to poke it away from the advancing Armstrong. Armstrong made a play for the puck and kicked Auld in the head with his skate.

It didn't look like Armstrong intended to injure Auld but he was penalized on the play for charging. Auld lay on the ice for some time but after conferring with trainer Brad Hall remained in the game.

Later that night the fourth-year pro began to feel the effects of the collision and was determined to have a mild concussion. Protocol states a player must be symptom-free for at least seven days before he can return to action.

The Moose recalled goalie Mike Minard from the Columbia Inferno to fill in for Auld until he's cleared to play.

MANITOBA   Moose goalie Alex Auld is breaking in a new set of leg pads this week. There's nothing unusual about that, except that his third set this season will be his last in their current form.

NHL general managers are determined to make some serious rule changes for the game next season and one of the modifications promised is that goalies' pads will be a maximum of 10 inches wide in the future, not 12.

Auld isn't giving away the inches until he absolutely has to, but the thoughtful 23-year-old from Thunder Bay has already spent a good deal of time contemplating a future on the ice with narrower legs.

"I don't know what the biggest issue is going to be playing with these new pads, but I don't think it'll be a change in style," Auld said after yesterday's Moose practice at the Arena. "The style has developed to be the best for the way the game's played right now. Who knows? In 10 years, it could be something different again.

"But goalies feel protected enough that you can still go down. That's the biggest thing about the butterfly style, how it's improved since the upper-body pads have improved. Nothing hurts a goalie now. It might sting, but it's not lasting.

"And the butterfly's going to be even more important because you'll have less width standing up. Guys might have to be better positionally a little, but I'm not looking for a huge difference there." Just because pads are reverting to an old width does not mean goalies will go back to playing like they did in previous eras.

"Goalies are more athletic, better conditioned, better trained," Auld said. "There's more basis to more goalies' games as opposed to just going out and reacting well. There's more structure and more to go back to.

"You used to see a lot of blasts from the wing for goals. You're not going to see any more of that because of smaller pads."

"In fact, I don't think much will change. I'm not expecting changes in my game because of smaller pads. You'll develop and just get used to it."

Auld said his normal off-season routine -- off-ice conditioning, some weekly shinny and then a late-August increase in ice time before two weeks of twice-a-day on-ice work in Vancouver prior to training camp -- isn't likely to change, either.

He will, however, start wearing and fooling around with 10-inch pads as soon as this season is complete, be that in Winnipeg or in Vancouver as a Canucks call-up when the AHL season is over for the Moose. "As soon as I get a set of 10-inch pads, I'll start wearing them and I'll probably never go back," he said. "When I get something new, I don't like to switch back and forth between an old thing and a new thing. Even if it's identical, it still feels quite different.

"It'll be the same thing with the smaller pads."

Auld also said he has not decided where his own two-inch deduction should be applied -- inside, outside or a combination. The fact that he has to decide at all, however, has had him a little miffed since the February decision by the general managers to target goalie equipment.

"My first reaction was that I kind of laughed," Auld sad. "I think it's misplaced. They're looking at the wrong thing. I can see their point, that goalie equipment has gone beyond just protection and it's sort of turned into net protection instead of body protection.

"But to increase goals, you need to increase scoring chances. Fans like it if there are more chances, even if the goalie's playing well and makes the saves. They don't necessarily want more goals; they want more action, less clutching and grabbing.

"If a team only gets five chances a night, they won't score much no matter how big my pads are. If you generate more chances, even if the goalie's playing well, it's more exciting to watch. I don't know if the equipment is the right approach."

Auld is expected to be in goal, with his 12-inch leg pads, tomorrow night when the Moose meet the St. John's Maple Leafs at the Arena. After Sunday's matinee against the baby Leafs, the Moose will have only two more games before they reach the 80-game finish to their season.

 

Alex Auld  may finally get his chance to play a full season in the National Hockey League.

With the NHL players and owners hammering out a tentative deal to end the lockout yesterday, the longtime Manitoba Moose goalie, who has played fewer than 20 games with the Vancouver Canucks in three years, now has a good shot at finally making the Canucks as a full-time backup to starting goalie Dan Cloutier.

"I obviously hope so," Auld said yesterday. "I'll definitely be in camp."

"As it sits right now I'd say it looks fairly good but they can always go in a different direction or find somebody else."

Auld, a 24-year-old from Cold Lake, Alta., is one of a handful of Moose players who may get a shot at making the Canucks, who are the Moose's NHL affiliate.

"It's good for the guys because now we're not going to lose a whole other year of our careers trying to get up to the NHL," said Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner, who, at 29, said he has a "small window" of opportunity to make it to the NHL.

Baumgartner said Auld and centre Ryan Kesler, as well as left-winger Jason King, have a good shot at making the Canucks.

Forward Lee Goren and centre Josh Green could also get a shot at some time with the big club, he said.

Moose governor Mark Chipman said he's relieved the lockout is over, which he said should stabilize the team.

"It's good to know we're back to normal. Pretty soon we'll know what our player supply can be and we can get back to work," said Chipman. "We'll know what we've got going in instead of being at the whim of the negotiating team and having to change in mid-stream."

Chipman said he expected one or two of the Moose players to make the jump to the Canucks, but would not speculate which ones. Most of the team would be back, he said.

"The good news from our perspective is Vancouver's got most of their lineup under contract."

Chipman said he's unsure how a resurrected NHL will affect attendance at Moose games, which soared last year due to the opening of the MTS Centre, a lack of NHL hockey, and a competitive team.

"We had a number of things that increased attendance last year, most notably the new building, so it's hard to put a finger on it," he said. "I'm sure (no NHL) had some effect but I can't imagine what."

The tentative new NHL deal, which is believed to feature a salary cap of $39 million US, is good news for those who want to see the big league return to Winnipeg, said Chipman.

"They've got some cost certainty now. It improves our chances of getting (a team) and if we get one of being competitive."

The cap is still a little high for Winnipeg's relatively shallow pockets, he said.

"I don't think the city could afford a $39 million players' salary. I'm quite certain of that. If you were in the mid-20s you could produce a ticket price that would work here," he said.

The tentative deal is also said to have a minimum players' payroll of $21.5 million US.

Auld said that while it may seem the NHL players, who would also take an immediate 24% pay cut under the tentative deal, have given up a lot, only time will tell.

"They said the players gave up too much in the last one too and it didn't work out that way," said Auld.

"If it's something that works for both sides and it's good for the game then it's the right move."

"It's definitely been frustrating to sit and wait a year like that," he said.