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Fighting to the Finish

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
By Matt Vevoda

AnaheimDucks.com


“The question is going to be if it’s going to stay like this or start cramping up,” said Hiller of his back. “I have to really take care of it and stay loose. Hopefully, it will be well tomorrow again.”
Almost lost in Anaheim’s run to nine out of a possible 10 points in its last five games is the team’s ability to do so without the services of its No. 1 goaltender and arguably top player.

Jonas Hiller last backstopped the Ducks on March 24 against the Canucks in Vancouver. He served as a backup in the next game at Edmonton before back spasms shelved him during the warm-up against the Stars on March 28.

Meanwhile, a tender left ankle, originally injured Feb. 8 against the Kings, has sidelined Ryan Getzlaf since that game in Vancouver. He was leading the team with 69 points before going down.

Positive signs emanated from both players during Monday’s practice at Honda Center. Hiller was on the ice the ice throughout drills and is more likely of the two to be available tomorrow night against the rival Kings. Getzlaf took part in the first portion of practice before departing.

Getting back one or both will only strengthen the Ducks, who are faced with having to win all of their remaining four games and get some help from other teams over the final week if they are to reach the postseason.

“I think Hiller will quite possibly be an option for us tomorrow,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “After today’s practice, we’ll have a better assessment on where he is actually. We’ll have a morning skate tomorrow to make the decision if he is fit to play or not. Getzlaf skated for the first 20 minutes. He skated the other day and worked out yesterday. It’s a possibility of him getting closer.”

“I was over it,” Wisniewski said. “I needed to get back on the ice and start playing, so I could try to put it behind me. I just jumped right in and it was good. I felt a little rusty, but for the most part I felt like I didn’t miss a beat.”
Skating extra with goaltending consultant Pete Peeters before and after practice, Hiller said he stills feels “certain tightness” in his back, but overall felt pretty good on the ice. “The question is going to be if it’s going to stay like this or start cramping up,” said Hiller, who has a 29-23-3 record on the season. “I have to really take care of it and stay loose. Hopefully, it will be well tomorrow again.”

It’s been a frustrating couple of months for Getzlaf since he landed awkwardly on his ankle while trying to avoid a James Wisniewski shot in the second period during that home game against the Kings. This is the third separate time the 25-year-old has been out of action as a result of the injury.

“It’s been a tough year when you look at it in the grand scheme of things,” said Getzlaf, who began the 2009-10 on the heels of being treated for a sports hernia. “Starting the season the way I did with the surgery and then having this happen, it’s been definitely frustrating. But it’s been a pleasure watching the boys win, at least.”

The Ducks have certainly won. Entering March 26, they were nestled in 13th place in the highly competitive Western Conference. Since then, the club has reeled off four wins in five games (the only blemish being a shootout loss to Vancouver last Friday).

At the heart of that surge has been the play of Saku Koivu, who has eight points in his last three games. Among those numbers are two similar game-tying goals on the power play with less than two minutes to play in regulation. The 35-year-old veteran also capitalized in the shootout Saturday to ensure the Ducks of a 2-1 victory at Los Angeles.

“Our work is cut out for us," Ryan said. "That being said, a lot of guys have stepped up in the absence of Getz and Hillsy. There are a lot of positives right now and that is what we’re going to focus on.”
“The last two games, we were fortunate enough to get the power play and be on a 6-on-4,” said Koivu, who was named the NHL’s Second Star for the week ending April 4.
We had more guys out there and it just happened that the puck bounced to my side on both occasions. We’ve been trying to not think about the situation we’re in and just play until the end. Right now, it’s paid off.”

In that game against the Kings, Anaheim was able to get another key ingredient back into the lineup with the return of Wisniewski from an eight-game suspension. Out since March 17, the defenseman was more than eager to return.

“I was over it,” Wisniewski said. “I needed to get back on the ice and start playing, so I could try to put it behind me. I just jumped right in and it was good. I felt a little rusty, but for the most part I felt like I didn’t miss a beat.”

Just seven days remain in the regular season and the Ducks are faced with a large hill to climb if they want to keep playing beyond April 11. But a strong run, even without two of its top players, at least has the team in the discussion this late in the game, something that seemed distant two weeks ago.

“We have to win out and some things have to happen for us from some other teams,” said leading goal-scorer Bobby Ryan. “Our work is cut out for us. We have some tough teams coming into the barn and we have to go on a tough road trip. That being said, a lot of guys have stepped up in the absence of Getz and Hillsy. There are a lot of positives right now and that is what we’re going to focus on.”
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