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Hiller ready for growing workload

by Curtis Zupke
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jonas Hiller is wading into new waters, and the Anaheim Ducks need his steady navigation more than ever.

Hiller is expected to make a franchise-record 24th consecutive start Friday when the Anaheim Ducks host the Calgary Flames. It's the heaviest workload in Hiller's young career; he'll match a career-high with his 59th game played tonight.

Hiller never played more than 44 games for his Swiss team, Davos, and never has had to carry the load in this short of a stretch.

"Back home in Europe, you normally play all the games -- but that's just, like, 40-something games," Hiller said. "I haven't played that many games in such a short period of time in quite a while. But at the same time, I'm feeling good. Why not?"

Hiller's durability is needed after coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday that backup Dan Ellis likely will miss another 4-6 weeks with a torn groin muscle.

Ellis was scheduled to see a doctor Friday and the team could announce that he is done for the season. Jeff Deslauriers is Hiller's backup, but Anaheim plans on riding Hiller to the end in a quest at a playoff berth.

Hiller is expected to play again Saturday, when the Ducks play at Los Angeles.

"We give him the time off and he plays the games because we're worried about that sort of thing -- him getting overly tired," Boudreau said. "The only time I saw him look with any sense of fatigue was maybe the Colorado game (on Monday). He's been sharp and he's been strong and I ask him every day how he's feeling to make sure that we're doing the right things for him, because he knows -- unless something negative happens -- that he probably starts most of the games, if not all of them, from here on in."

Hiller seems up to the task and has re-kindled the form that made him one of the top goalies in the League before vertigo symptoms effectively ended his season last February.

If anything, that bizarre ailment has made Hiller more in tune with his body.

"I definitely got a better understanding of how to take care of it and listen to my body about when something's aching," Hiller said.  "I just think, 'Well, just work through it.' I just have to take care of it. Normally, with massage or treatment, you can get rid of stuff before it gets serious. Bruce has given me the opportunity to take my rest, to take my options on certain days or certain practices, which definitely helps to stay sharp mentally, which is as almost as tough as being ready physically."

Ellis, who ably filled in for Hiller during Anaheim's second-half run last season, has been out since December. A team spokesman said he has not suffered a setback, although Ellis reportedly was skating on his own during the team's recent road trip.
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