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Anaheim Ducks sniper Teemu Selanne, right, celebrates his game-winning overtime goal with teammate Saku Koivu, left, against the Vancouver Canucks during preseason NHL action at GM Place in Vancouver, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. The Ducks won the game 3-2. (Jonathan Hayward)
Anaheim Ducks sniper Teemu Selanne, right, celebrates his game-winning overtime goal with teammate Saku Koivu, left, against the Vancouver Canucks during preseason NHL action at GM Place in Vancouver, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. The Ducks won the game 3-2. (Jonathan Hayward)

Ducks hand Canucks first loss Add to ...

Andrew Raycroft didn't answer the question directly, but his response was clear.

If a 26-save performance against the Anaheim Ducks wasn't enough to nail down the Vancouver Canucks' backup goaltending job, than Raycroft will be shocked come early next week. The former Maple Leafs goalie was the best Canuck on Thursday, in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ducks at GM Place, and he is almost certain to re-launch his NHL career as Roberto Luongo's caddy this season.

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"Overall, my body of work, I did what I wanted to do and accomplished what I wanted to do," Raycroft said after his third strong game of the preseason. "I feel like I'm a National Hockey League player, when it comes down to it."

Raycroft, a former Calder Trophy winner with the Boston Bruins, is competing with Cory Schneider, one of the best goaltending prospects in hockey, who has owned the American Hockey League over the last 1 ½ seasons.

Schneider, 23, will start a Sunday game in Edmonton against the Oilers - the preseason finale for both teams - before Vancouver names its 23-man regular-season roster. But unless the young American resembles Patrick Roy, and erases memories of an uneven performance earlier this week, than this camp battle is over.

"It would be fair to say that Raycroft did not have a so-so night, whereas Schneider had a so-so night," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said. "Raycroft has been good every time we put him in."

Asked if he would accept an assignment to the minors, Raycroft said: "I'm not even thinking like that. I'm pretty optimistic, overall in life, and this is no different. I feel like I'm a National Hockey League goalie and feel like I can contribute here."

Vancouver (6-0-1) fell for the first time during the exhibition season, and heads to Alberta this weekend for games against the Calgary Flames and Oilers.

On Thursday, the Canucks faced an Anaheim squad with almost all its regulars in uniform, a bench that resembled the Western Conference semi-finalists of last spring. The Ducks pressed early and often, forcing Raycroft to make four excellent saves in the first period, and several more in the middle frame.

Teemu Selanne scored the winner in overtime, lifting a puck over Raycroft's right shoulder from a bad angle. Selanne actually fanned on the shot, and it fluttered through a hole. Corey Perry and Ryan Whitney also scored for the visitors.

Matt Pope and Shane O'Brien scored for Vancouver.

The Canucks used a first line of the Sedin twins with fellow Swede Mikael Samuelsson, who were consistently in possession of the puck and threatening the score.

On the flip side, top prospect Cody Hodgson continues to struggle on the ice, and continues to feel pain from a bulging disc in his lower back. The injury has affected Hodgson's effectiveness, and the 19-year-old does not look like an NHL player right now. Hodgson is likely to play the last two exhibitions, but seems a long way from the second-line minutes some predicted when camp began.

Also on the roster front, the Canucks are expected to place defenceman Mathieu Schneider (shoulder) on the long-term injury list at some point before the season opens on Oct. 1. The move will provide Vancouver with some cap savings on Schneider's $1.55-million (U.S.) salary.

 

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