ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Anaheim Ducks have as good a reason as any to put Viktor Fasth back in goal Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The traditional strategy is not to mess with a streak and go with the hot goalie. Fasth is 8-0-0 and one win away from tying Ray Emery for longest winning streak to begin an NHL career.
But Fasth has played twice in the previous three nights and it appears that Jonas Hiller will return to the lineup now that he’s healthy. Hiller was first off the ice at the morning skate and said he’s back from a lower-body muscle strain that forced him out of his last start Feb. 8.
“I’ve been skating full practices for the last few days and I’ve felt good and never gotten worse,” Hiller said. "I definitely feel comfortable where I’m at.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t tip his hand. Hiller served as Fasth’s backup last Saturday even though the club also has Jeff Deslauriers available.
“He’s ready to play – when we decide to play him,” Boudreau said of Hiller.
The Ducks come off a 5-1-0 road trip, the best stretch of five or more games away from home in club history, by winning percentage [.833]. Fasth is the foundation behind their remarkable start. He is the third goaltender in NHL history to win his first eight or more decisions.
Hiller said Fasth’s performance made it easy to take time to get fully healthy.
“If the team does well, you don’t feel rushed back because you feel you’re letting the team down or anything,” Hiller said. “I’m happy with the way we’re playing right now, and the way Viktor’s playing, so it’s definitely nice to take a few days.”
Fowler getting closer: Cam Fowler has not started skating yet but he told reporters Monday morning that “I’ve felt good the past few days. The main thing now is just getting my conditioning back and getting ready and getting into game shape.”
Fowler was hit from behind and into the boards by Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 2. The Anaheim Ducks are calling it an upper-body injury but he is believed to have a head injury.
“You never want to be out of the lineup for this long,” Fowler said. “It seems like it’s been months since I’ve played. I want to get back as soon as possible but I want to get back as soon as possible, but like I said, I need to make sure I’m at 100 percent … I just need to make sure I get my conditioning in so I can be at the best of my ability.”
It is the second head injury in the young career of Fowler, who had his nose broken on a hit by Shane Doan in his rookie season. Stoll didn’t receive any discipline on the play, and Fowler didn’t take much exception.
“It’s just one of those things that happen with hockey,” Fowler said. “Jarret Stoll, he’s obviously not that type of player. I know he wasn’t trying to put me in that situation. It’s just something that ended up happening. It’s such a quick sport and split-second decision. You don’t want to blame him for what happened. It’s hockey. Those things are going to happen. There are a lot of other factors that went into it. You just kind of have to take it for what it is. You’re going to have setbacks like that throughout your career.”
Wisniewski returns: James Wisniewski re-joined Columbus after he returned to Ohio for the birth of his daughter, Jamie Marie, early Saturday morning. Wisniewski said his wife, Nicole, was in labor for 40 hours.
“That’s a warrior,” Wisniewski said.
Wisniewski arrived in Southern California at 9:30 p.m. Sunday night and appeared energized at the morning skate.
“I’ll probably be running on pure adrenaline,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting back tonight and getting back with my other family and helping them win.
Wisniewski’s return means the Blue Jackets will have their starting defense intact for the first time since early in the season.
“It’s obviously good having everyone back,” coach Todd Richards said. “Hopefully having Wiz back, we can get pairs together and get some chemistry going. Wiz will help out our power play. He should help our power play. Defending is there, and it’s going to be a test tonight to defend against these guys. But again, we still have to find ways to play in the offensive zone, and play with the puck and create some offensive chances.”
Collins makes it to the NHL: Sean Collins will likely make his NHL debut after he was recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League. It is an impressive journey for Collins, who parlayed a junior career with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League into a scholarship at Cornell.
“I was playing junior in relative obscurity,” Collins said. “It was a situation where the team I was going to hadn’t made the playoffs in its history. There was no career Division I alumni. Going into junior, I couldn’t make my triple-A team until I was 17 years old.
“My goal was just to get a Division I scholarship. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d get drafted in the NHL and eventually be here.”
Collins describes himself as a two-way player who can play on all four lines. His game is centered around speed and skating. Collins will need all of that if he sees minutes on the top line, but he won’t mind the responsibility after his long path.
“It was a turbulent journey, that’s for sure,” he said. “A lot of ups and downs.”
Here are the probable lineups for each team:
Sean Collins – Derick Brassard – R.J. Umberger
Matt Calvert – Artem Anisimov – Nick Foligno
Derek Dorsett – Mark Letestu – Vinny Prospal
Colton Gillies – Derek Mackenzie – Jared Boll
Jack Johnson – Steve Wisniewski
Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
John Moore – Adrian Aucoin
Note: Richards said Artem Anisimov is questionable. Anisimov was struck on the foot when he blocked a shot last Friday against the Los Angeles Kings. Richards ruled out Brandon Dubinsky, who had a knee injury last Saturday.
Matt Beleskey – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan – Nick Bonino – Teemu Selanne
Andrew Cogliano – Saku Koivu – Daniel Winnik
Kyle Palmieri – Peter Holland – Brad Staubitz
Sheldon Souray – Francois Beauchemin
Luca Sbisa – Toni Lydman
Bryan Allen – Ben Lovejoy