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The Stretch Run

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
By Matt Vevoda

AnaheimDucks.com


Following a day off and before departing for a critical three-game road trip this afternoon, the Ducks were able to squeeze in some practice at The Rinks – Anaheim ICE. Participating throughout the morning session was sidelined goaltender Jonas Hiller.

“We’ll see how it goes with the flying and getting into a rhythm again,” Hiller said.  “I’m definitely happy with the way it’s gone the last couple of days. I’m not getting that tired anymore and it seems to be more natural to follow the puck. I have felt pretty good and am definitely excited that it keeps going forward.”
Out of the lineup since Feb. 13 with vertigo-like symptoms, Hiller has gone through a rollercoaster of emotions over the last five weeks on the road to recover. It’s finally starting to appear like the netminder might be turning things around for the better. He says he is feeling more like himself over the last little bit and was on the plane with the Ducks when they departed for Dallas.

“We’ll see how it goes with the flying and getting into a rhythm again,” Hiller said.  “I’m definitely happy with the way it’s gone the last couple of days. I’m not getting that tired anymore and it seems to be more natural to follow the puck. I have felt pretty good and am definitely excited that it keeps going forward.”

Added Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle, “He will be on the ice tomorrow in the pre-game skate. Then, we quite possibly could have a decision to make in the next three games. He feels much better about himself. He hasn’t had any setbacks and that was our main goal. He is moving closer to becoming part of our team again.”

While it remains to be determined if and when Hiller will get back into the lineup soon, Anaheim’s immediate focus is on tomorrow night’s game against Pacific Division foe Dallas. Both clubs each have earned 85 points through 72 games played, with the Ducks owning eighth place in the West based on having more non-shootout wins (36 to 33) than the Stars.

That makes tomorrow night’s game vital to both teams, as the winner will remain in playoff position with nine games left to play in the regular season.  There will be no rest for the weary afterward either, as the Ducks travel to Nashville to take on the currently seventh-place Predators (with 86 points) in the second half of a back-to-back on Thursday. The trip closes at sixth-place Chicago (also 86 points) on Saturday.

“Any time you are back-to-back, you want to get that first period going and put your best foot forward in that first game,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “It gives you that extra confidence going into later that game and into the next one. We have six periods of hockey where we have to come out on top and put us in a pretty good situation.”

“Any time you are back-to-back, you want to get that first period going and put your best foot forward in that first game,” Getzlaf said. “It gives you that extra confidence going into later that game and into the next one. We have six periods of hockey where we have to come out on top and put us in a pretty good situation.”
Last week Anaheim only had 24 hours to enjoy its stay in playoff position, before getting dropped down by virtue of other games around the league. This time around, the Ducks will have control on whether or not they remain. Much like the rest of the season, their playoff fate is in their hands.

“It’s tough seeing teams share points in overtime,” Ducks rookie Cam Fowler said. “That is probably the last thing we want to see. When it comes down to it, if we do our job and put some wins together here, I think we’ll make a good run on this thing.”

When faced with adversity thus far in 2010-11, such as starting the year with three losses by a combined score of 13-2, playing for extended period without some of its top players (Getzlaf and Hiller at different times) or even being down to opponents late in games, Anaheim has shown a resilience to come back and fight. Their final challenge begins tomorrow, 10 final regular season games they will need to do well in to claim a playoff berth.

“Our players have reached back and found ways to give us more,” Carlyle said. “They made a conscious effort that they were going to rally around one another.  Some people have stepped to the forefront, specifically Corey Perry. Our goaltending has given us a chance in the games. Our players have an understanding on how we have to play.”
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