It definitely makes it more special if you know a lot of guys you face and some guys you’ve played with for the last seven years. You can’t deny that. - Jonas Hiller
CALGARY, AB -- Tuesday will mark another start for Calgary Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller. It won’t be like the others, though.
Hiller will get the crease call when Calgary welcomes the Anaheim Ducks, his former club with whom he spent his first seven seasons and 326 career National Hockey League games.
“I’m definitely excited to play those guys,” Hiller said following Monday’s practice. “It’s going to be more special than a usual game. It definitely makes it more special if you know a lot of guys you face and some guys you’ve played with for the last seven years. You can’t deny that. It’s a little bit more than a usual game.”
Hiller posted a 162-110-32 record over parts of seven seasons in Orange County and amassed a 2.51 goals against average and .916 career save percentage.
But he struggled following the Olympic break last season and saw his role diminish in favour of rookie goaltender Frederik Andersen. With Andersen, 25, and John Gibson, 21, battling for crease time, the Ducks opted not to re-sign the 32-year-old Hiller this offseason.
“For me, it almost felt like after the Olympic break it seemed like I wouldn’t start against the good teams and at first it was just ‘to rest you’,” Hiller said. “I kind of felt like (Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau) was leaning more towards Andersen. It’s tough at that point to not second-guess yourself and be mentally focused out there just to play well.
“If you don’t feel that trust you second-guess everything and you kind of go out there not to play bad instead of play well.”
It opened the door for a change of scenery with the Flames.
Hiller signed a two-year deal with Calgary and has flourished, starting his post-Ducks career with an 8-4-1 record. He’s also put up a 2.30 goals against average and .922 save percentage through 13 appearances.
“It’s a little disappointing, sure, but it’s part of the hockey business,” he said. “That’s the not so fun side. At the same time, I’m excited to have gotten a new job somewhere else. Things have been great here. I’m really excited to have success with this team and hopefully we will [Tuesday] as well.”
It was automatic to start Hiller against his former club, coach Bob Hartley admitted.
“Whenever you play your former team for the first time, it’s always special,” Hartley said. “It’s always fun and we want to give him this but at the same time, I think Karri gave us a great game against Ottawa. We have two great goalies, two goalies that can win us some games so we will use them.”
He's up to the challenge.
Hiller just isn’t sure who has the advantage: he, or Ducks shooters.
“We’ll find out [Tuesday]. I have no idea,” Hiller said. “I’ve seen goalies play against their former team and were great and I’ve seen it the other way around. I’m just excited to play again. It’s definitely a little more special knowing a lot of the guys.”
GIO DEBATES VISOR
Having toyed with the idea of wearing one full-time in the past, Mark Giordano is one of few Flames who have opted against the shield. A stick above the left ice in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators could change that.
“Definitely prefer not using one but I’ll try it again and see how it goes this time,” Giordano said.
“It’s just personal preference. They fog up and get water on them from time-to-time. That’s a bit of a bother but I’ll try it again because it was pretty close to being a bad eye injury and I don’t want to obviously put myself at risk if I don’t have to. I’ll try to get used to it here over the next few weeks.”
Giordano was forced to the dressing room in the first period of Saturday’s game. He returned for the second period sporting stitches and the visor and managed to extend his nine-game point streak in the process.
Hartley was happy to have him back, but relieved he didn’t lose his captain.
“It’s a scary sight to see any guy getting injured at any point but when your trainer tells you he got a stick in the eye and he’s in for stitches and it took over 15 minutes of playing time,” he said. “Usually 10 minutes guys are back but once I saw the cut and especially where it was, I fully understood how delicate the doctors had to be. I fully understood the situation.
“We’re in an era right now that the game is so quick, pucks are flying, sticks are flying, that you need to protect your eyes.”
Kris Russell, who also left Saturday’s contest in the first period but returned for the second, was noticeably absent from Monday’s skate. Just maintenance, cautioned Hartley.
“Kris Russell was just a maintenance day,” Hartley said. “Russell for sure is going to be in the lineup.”
Not everyone escaped so fortunate, though.
David Jones, playing in just his fourth game since returning from a lower body injury, didn’t finish against the Senators and is questionable for Tuesday’s game against Anaheim.
Jones, who had goals in three straight games prior to the game against Ottawa, will be a game-time decision.