Kuzma: Ducks GM backs red-hot backstop

 

There are goalies galore in Anaheim, but Murray says he’s not about to trade Hiller, who’s a pending UFA

 
 
 
 
Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller shut out Riley Sheahan (15) and the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 in a playoff-like game Sunday in Anaheim.
 

Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller shut out Riley Sheahan (15) and the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 in a playoff-like game Sunday in Anaheim.

Photograph by: Reed Saxon, AP

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jonas Hiller can see the future. It’s the recalled John Gibson and he’s standing right in front of him in the locker-room.

Hiller, the Anaheim Ducks standout starting goaltender, has an impressive 14-game win streak — the second-longest run of NHL success that he shares with Tom Barrasso of the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins — and he’s three victories shy of the top standard set by Gilles Gilbert, with the Boston Bruins in 1975-76.

However, those aren’t the numbers that matter most. As an pending unrestricted free agent, the 31-year-old Hiller presents the Ducks with a possible predicament because the league’s top club could ride its red-hot starter and address his expiring $4.5-million-US contract in the offseason. But with the 20-year-old Gibson — called the best stopper not playing in the NHL before his recall — along with Viktor Fasth, 31, and Frederik Andersen, 24, under contract, the Ducks could get something for Hiller after the playoffs and before free agency. They could fill a positional need, free up more money and still have goaltending depth — if they deal Hiller.

You would think that would sour the Swiss Olympian. He’s a big part of the Ducks’ winning seven straight games, 17 of their last 18 and yet to lose at the Honda Center in regulation time with a eye-popping 19-0-2 mark. The Ducks are the best team in the NHL so far this season, with a 35-8-5 record.

Ducks general manager Bob Murray defused ongoing trade rumours Tuesday.

“There’s not a chance in hell I’m moving Jonas Hiller,” Murray told ESPN.com.

That should be of some comfort to Hiller whose name has constantly surfaced in trade speculation.

“All I can do is play well — that’s what I told myself at the beginning of the year,” said Hiller. “It’s tough to block it out when people ask me about it (win streak) every day, but once I go on the ice it’s all about not getting scored on and winning again. To feel the team and coaching staff having confidence in me, it’s easier to feel good about myself.”

Hiller’s numbers are mid-pack because the Ducks have the third-ranked offence and aren’t afraid to trade scoring chances.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were fourth and sixth respectively in scoring entering league play Tuesday and the Ducks have five players with double-digit goals, led by Perry with 25 and Getzlaf with 23.

And while Hiller sports a 2.34 goals-against average (15th) and .914 saves percentage (22nd), his shutout in a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday sent several messages. He can make the big save when it matters most and the Ducks can play playoff hockey in January — even with a target on their backs as the opposition attempts to break that home-ice dominance.

“You can’t really expect your team to score four or five goals a night and it was one of those games that was tight on both ends,” recalled Hiller. “To win those games and be solid in your own end and not giving up much, as a goalie you wish that would be more often the case. But at the same time, we’re winning and I’m not complaining.”

Added Perry: “We want to keep this thing going. It’s something we strive for and if we keep growing, it’s going to help us. Detroit was a playoff game with the atmosphere and emotion and everything that was going on. It was a crucial win for our team.”

It’s the depth that often gets overlooked with the Ducks. Getzlaf and Perry are Sochi bound with Team Canada, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are Finnish legends — although Koivu is passing on his fifth Olympics to concentrate on the NHL season — but Andrew Cogliano has 15 goals, Nick Bonino, 13 and Dustin Penner 11. Cogliano moved from centre to wing and his two-way effectiveness earned a four-year contract extension.

“I had a lot of struggles with faceoffs early in my career,” said Cogliano. “It (move) helped and with my speed, I’m able to get up the ice and playing centre takes away the forecheck, which is a big part of my game. I get on the defence for turnovers and as a centre you’re usually the last guy back.”

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau doesn’t get enough credit for keeping his club focused. He has pushed all the right motivational buttons and the trickle-down effect is a big lead atop the tough Pacific Division and not letting anyone win in the Ducks’ building.

“Guys are really motivated and realize things change in a hurry,” said former Vancouver Canucks defenceman Bryan Allen, who’s out with a lower-body injury. “If you get complacent and take things for granted, teams eat you up. Teams are coming in and trying to knock us off and we’re taking pride in trying to do it every night. It’s easy to say we didn’t have it tonight or we’re not feeling good.

“We’re not letting that seep into our game.”

OF NOTE: Getzlaf returns Wednesday to face the Canucks after missing one game after blocking a shot.

bkuzma@theprovince.com

twitter.com/benkuzma

 
 
 
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Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller shut out Riley Sheahan (15) and the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 in a playoff-like game Sunday in Anaheim.
 

Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller shut out Riley Sheahan (15) and the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 in a playoff-like game Sunday in Anaheim.

Photograph by: Reed Saxon, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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