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Salmon Kings' goalie gets Moose call thanks to Luongo injury

Those who toil in the minor-pro ranks of sport are not exactly publicly recognizable figures outside their home-team market.

Those who toil in the minor-pro ranks of sport are not exactly publicly recognizable figures outside their home-team market.

To the thousands of people traveling through Vancouver International Airport yesterday, Jonathan Boutin was just another guy waiting for a flight to Winnipeg. Few fellow-travellers would have realized he was there because of the injury to Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who IS recognizable to just about anybody in this province.

Any injury on the parent major-league team causes a domino effect in the farm system. When that involves forwards or defencemen in hockey, it is not as noticeable an issue. But when it concerns goaltenders, it becomes much more glaring since it is such a specialty position.

After Luongo went down Saturday in a game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh, the ripples rushed through Winnipeg and washed up in Victoria. Cory Schneider was called up to the Canucks from the AHL Manitoba Moose and Boutin to the Moose from the ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings.

Ironically, Boutin isn't one of the nine Salmon Kings players under season contract to the Canucks or Moose. It is goalie Todd Ford of the S-Kings who has the AHL contract with the Moose, but Boutin who got the call to replace the anointed boy wonder Schneider in Manitoba.

"They took the guy [Boutin] that was going the best," said Salmon Kings GM and head coach Mark Morrison.

"Todd [Ford] hasn't had the chance to perform as much lately. Jonathan had seen more ice time and was the more ready of the two. That was the difference."

The 2003 Tampa Bay third-round draft pick Boutin joins Karl Goehring as the new Manitoba crease tandem, beginning with a two-game home set Friday and Saturday against the Iowa Chops.

"You hate to see injuries, but you have to be ready if they happen, and now the Moose are giving me a chance in the AHL," said Boutin, the most recent ECHL goaltender of the week, as he airport hopped yesterday.

"I would have preferred leaving on a better game than I played Saturday night [4-3 Alaska Aces overtime victory over the Salmon Kings at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre]. That overtime shot just hit my glove and went in. I've had a couple of rough games, but overall I've played pretty well this season. Manitoba saw it that way, too. This is life in the minors and you have to get used to it. You have to be ready to move, because it could happen any time."

In an uncanny piece of timing, Canucks-contracted Victoria goaltender Julien Ellis comes off the 30-day injury list this week and just in time to join Ford for Wednesday's game against the Utah Grizzlies at the E Center in Salt Lake City. Ellis, however, will have to work off the rust and get his timing back. He hasn't played since suffering a serious high-ankle sprain in an exhibition game Sept. 15 pitting Canucks prospects against Flames prospects in Camrose, Alta.

"Julien is ready and has been for about two weeks," said Morrison. "He has been practising well. But he is behind the 8-ball, having not played a game in quite awhile. We have to give him time to get back into game shape, but both Julien and Todd will play on our road trip."

Until Luongo undergoes an MRI today, nobody knows how long Schneider will be in Vancouver and Boutin in Winnipeg.

"It all depends on Roberto's injury. It again points out that as a pro hockey player, you never know what can happen and you have to be ready for anything at anytime," reiterated Boutin.

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