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Flames continue to roll with Hiller

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- It started with one. Now, Jonas Hiller has parlayed it into three.

The goaltender will make his third consecutive start when the Calgary Flames kick off a critical four-game Eastern road trip against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

“I’m definitely excited to get another shot next game,” said Hiller, who earned a shutout in a 6-0 rout of the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, and was the goalie on record in a 2-1 shootout loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

“I’m definitely happy the way the last two went. Sure, not the result last night, I wish we could’ve come away with the two points but you can’t win them all. I think we definitely have to win some games on the road and we’re trying to help the team get those victories and those points somehow. We’ve got to stack them up otherwise we’re going to be out of it pretty quick. It’s definitely a good reward to also see that all the hard work I put in in practice, that’s paying off in the games.”

The shutout effort was Hiller’s first start since Dec. 12.

The 36-save performance in a losing effort to the Oilers was the first set of back-to-back starts Hiller had since Dec. 10-12 with fellow goaltender Karri Ramo out because of illness.

Now, he’ll go back-to-back-to-back for the first time since Oct. 20-25.

“He’s playing real well. For us, it’s not a surprise,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “You look at the trend from last year. Maybe we didn’t have such a long stretch as Karri got, but Karri, number one, lets look at the stretch. He took advantage of Hills’ injury then Hills got sick. Plus he was playing well. We’re very fortunate because we have two guys that can carry the load for us. We’re just trying to play the biggest card at the right time.”

Hiller, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, has been the card the past two games, making 51 of 52 stops in his last 125 minutes of work.

It’s a far cry from when he spent 12 consecutive game opening gates.

“You try to block all the other stuff out, especially if you’re on the ice,” Hiller said. “It’s not always easy, especially if you go through a stretch where you almost don’t play for a month. It’s tough not to overthink things and then worry about things. At the end, all I can do is just take care of the things I can take care of. It’s been working pretty well.”

On the ice is where Hartley wants Hiller’s focus.

“It’s not easy. It’s not fun. It’s always the same problem,” Hartley said. “There’s two goalies. There’s one net. I just told him, ‘Stay sharp and whenever you get in net you make sure that you are.’ They know how we operate. He had a real strong game against Florida. Last night, I feel sorry for him. We should’ve got him the win, but sometimes that’s how it goes.

“The best place to speak is in net. In the papers you can only get in trouble. You can only get in trouble. Once you’re in net, that’s the dance floor. Shine your shoes and give us your best dance.”

NOTES: Forward Jiri Hudler, who has battled a lingering groin issue, participated in full practice Sunday. Both he and forward Joe Colborne wore green jerseys in the skate as extras. Defenceman Ladislav Smid took primary reps with partner Dennis Wideman. Deryk Engelland served as the seventh defenceman in the skate.

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