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Hiller is a reserve to bank on

Ducks' backup goalie is sharp again in Giguere's place, stopping 26 shots to improve to 5-1-1.

November 29, 2008|Chris Foster | Foster is a Times staff writer.

A quality backup goaltender is worth his weight in gold around the NHL. Or in the Ducks' case, $1.3 million.

That was proved once again in the Ducks' 1-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday afternoon at the Honda Center.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Ducks' No. 1 goaltender, was unavailable because of a family matter. He is expected to join the team on the road Sunday, though he will not start that night against Carolina.

There is no rush, with Jonas Hiller filling in.

Hiller proved his worth again Friday, stopping 26 shots to make Ryan Getzlaf's second-period goal stand up. It was Hiller's second shutout in his last four starts and gave him a 5-1-1 record this season as Giguere's backup.

"Lately, I have been playing a lot; well, for me it's a lot," said Hiller, who made his sixth start. "I'm happy for the experience, knowing I prepared myself to be sharp when the puck drops. I'm happy we played well. I'm happy we got the two points."

Happy is pretty much how the Ducks felt afterward. Getzlaf finally put them ahead 15 minutes into the second period, knocking in a back-hander after whiffing on his first attempt. The rest of the game was laid at Hiller's crease.

In the salary-cap era, Hiller is just short of a luxury. Only five teams pay their backup goaltender more than the $1.3 million Hiller makes, and three of those (Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Chicago) would like to get out of those situations.

There are no such concerns about Hiller's paycheck.

"No matter who's in goal, all we ask is he give us a chance," Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said. "Jonas is 5-1-1 right now. He's held up his end of the bargain."

Hiller made 15 saves in the second period. He was good and he was lucky.

On a Blackhawks power play, Hiller managed to stick his toe out at the last second and turn aside a shot after Patrick Sharp redirected the puck at the crease. On the same power play, Dave Bolland stared in disbelief after missing a wide-open net with a point-blank one-timer.

"They had three open nets and missed all of them," Hiller said. "All I did was put something there so they had to think where they were shooting. Sometimes you get to be lucky. But to be lucky, you've got to fight for it."

Hiller doesn't need to fight for much right now. He is comfortable being Giguere's backup, though he also knows that the last two who held that spot went off to be starters elsewhere -- Martin Gerber and Ilya Bryzgalov.

Those two gave the Ducks an appreciation for the value of a quality reserve. Bryzgalov kick-started the Ducks' Stanley Cup run in 2006-07, playing the first four games in the first playoff round against Minnesota, when Giguere was unavailable because of a personal matter with his family.

Another difficult situation arose for Giguere this week.

"It's sad why I had to play," Hiller said. "I hope his family is doing well and things go how he wants."

So Hiller went out and filled his role. He has a 4-0 record and a 1.43 goals-against average in his last five starts.

"My goal, for sure, is to be a No. 1 goaltender somewhere, whether that is here or somewhere else," Hiller said. "It's not going to happen tomorrow."


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