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Jonas Hiller's play might be a big deal for Ducks

Goalie has won 12 games in a row and helped the team to the NHL's best record, but nothing is guaranteed for next season because of Anaheim's depth in the net.

January 10, 2014|By Lance Pugmire
  • Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller could become one of eight goaltenders in NHL history to win 13 consecutive games if he is able to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday.
Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller could become one of eight goaltenders in NHL history… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Someone has to pay for Jonas Hiller's success. This season it has been the Ducks' opponents, but later this summer it could be the Ducks.

Should the Ducks' goaltender beat the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night, he'll become one of eight goaltenders in NHL history to win 13 consecutive games.

Hiller's hot streak has helped the Ducks (32-8-5) to the best record in the NHL and — considering he's in the final year of his contract — his pay should inflate significantly beyond his current $4.5-million salary.

Hiller said his agent and the Ducks have spoken "a couple times" since the season began. Given the team's depth at the position, he's unsure "what they want to see" before a deal would be finalized.

Perhaps him lifting the Stanley Cup?

"Jonas' play has been outstanding this year," Ducks General Manager Bob Murray said in a statement, declining — as he did before re-signing stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to eight-year extensions last season — to discuss contract issues.

"He's been especially good lately when our team play has not been very consistent."

Hiller said he does his best to keep his mind on the game, not the money.

"The team's really believing in being able to win every night, that's what makes the difference," Hiller said. "The big part in goaltending is to feel confident in yourself and know you can stop anything."

Hiller hasn't lost since Nov. 26 in Dallas, but his breakthrough game came four days earlier. Scheduled starter Viktor Fasth was injured in warmups and an ill Hiller was summoned to start against the same Tampa Bay Lightning team that had blitzed him for five goals Nov. 14.

This time the Lightning didn't score in 31 shots, and Hiller outlasted Tampa Bay's sturdy Ben Bishop, 1-0, in overtime.

"Since that game, he's been on a pretty good tear," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Hiller was 9-0-1 in December with a 1.6 goals-against average and .929 save percentage that included a shutout of defending champion Chicago, three wins on an East Coast trip, and a year-end home win over San Jose.

"He comes out very aggressive and blocks a lot of pucks, really good rebound control," Ducks veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "It allows us to play more aggressive. We might allow some better scoring chances to the teams, but he's there to stop it. You get back on offense a little faster and go on the attack."

The Ducks are riding a team record five straight games with four or more goals. The defense has been consistently strong too. In a Jan. 3 game against Edmonton, Hiller saw only eight shots after the first period.

"You obviously like having a rock back there who can bail you out when you need it," Fowler said. "Hillsy has been the main reason for our success over the last 15 games."

The streak has been defined by Hiller's repeated big saves in big moments "to keep the morale good," defenseman Cam Fowler said.

"Every time he goes out there now he feels like the puck is looking this big," Boudreau said, rounding his hands in the shape of a discus. "Usually, you have a clunker. He hasn't had one."

Hiller, 31, didn't enter the season entrenched as the starter. He and second-year goalie Fasth each had 15 wins in 2013, although Hiller started every game in the Ducks' first-round playoff loss to Detroit.

This season, rookie Frederik Andersen also has done his part, stepping in to win his first six starts and 10 of 12.

"When you have goaltenders doing really well, it pushes you to do that extra thing in practice, beyond what you'd do if you knew you had your spot 100%," Hiller said. "It might not pay off the next day, but it does a week or month later.

"Now, it's nice to have the consistency of playing almost every game. You're in your rhythm, don't have to find your game."

Hiller was given Thursday's game off, but spent an extra hour on the ice with goaltending coach Dwayne Roloson to correct recent flaws.

"A couple drills and it's gone," Roloson said. "I give him credit because he does a good job taking feedback and making changes."

Hiller isn't rah-rah in net, and is humble and matter-of-fact in the dressing room. Roloson says that's just on the outside.

"Understanding Jonas as a person, I see the drive, understand where he wants to go," Roloson said. "Hopefully he gets what he wants — to win his last game this year."

The Ducks' silence on their interest in retaining Hiller might be standard protocol, but considering they also are grooming top-notch goalie prospect John Gibson and have Fasth and Andersen under contract, there are whispers Hiller might not return.

Would they let the recently named Switzerland Olympic goaltender walk? Or will they try to deal Hiller before the March 5 trade deadline?

"The only thing I can do is play as good as possible," Hiller said. "That gives me the most opportunity for next summer. We have a good team here. I like it here. I'd love to stay."

Boudreau said he's received that message in Hiller's recent play.

"All good players want to do that," Boudreau said. "So next year, you've got decisions to make. He's saying, 'Think me.'"


When: 5 p.m. PST.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket. Radio: 830.

Etc.: The Ducks moved goalie Andersen to Norfolk so he can play twice this weekend, summoning Gibson from the same minor league affiliate. Boudreau declined to say when the rookie would play. Boudreau said forward Dustin Penner, who missed the last two games with an arm injury, is expected to play Saturday.

Twitter: @latimespugmire

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