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Weary LaBarbera wins emergency start for Ducks

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Jason LaBarbera was in Norfolk, Va., on Saturday night getting ready to attend a Halloween party with his American Hockey League teammates when he received a phone call from the Anaheim Ducks.

Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen was experiencing tightness in his leg and they needed LaBarbera to make the cross-country trip to Denver to dress as John Gibson's backup Sunday night against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center.

Jason LaBarbera
Goalie - ANA
RECORD: 1-0-0
GAA: 2.00 | SVP: .889
"I went out to eat dinner with the guys, went home and packed, slept for two hours," said LaBarbera, who made 16 saves in the Ducks' 3-2 win. "Got up and jumped on the plane. Here I was, I expected to back up."

LaBarbera said he got up at 5 a.m. ET for a 7 a.m. flight to Atlanta, with a connecting flight to Denver. His plane landed at 11:30 a.m. MT and he arrived at the hotel two hours later.

"I had an hour nap," he said. "I didn't even really eat, salad and soup."

The backup plan changed when Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Gibson "came up a little lame" in the warmup, pressing LaBarbera into a starting role. So the Ducks called goalie consultant Dwayne Roloson, who watched the warmup from the press box, and asked him to dress in case they needed an emergency backup. He wore jersey No. 79.

"I don't know what happened to Gibby. Something happened to him," LaBarbera said. "I came in after warmup and everyone is looking at me. Something happen? What's going on? You don't have a lot of time to get ready, just go out and try to do what you do.

"It's usually better not to have time to think about it. Take a couple of deep breaths and refocus yourself. I played a good game, both games on the weekend. Go off that. I physically felt good. I was in la-la land. It was tough to really get focused."

LaBarbera, 34, gave up a soft goal to Avalanche rookie Dennis Everberg at 2:18 of the first period, but he settled down after that, finishing with 16 saves in a 3-2 victory.

"I played Friday and Saturday in Norfolk," he said. "I've been in some sticky situations in my career, but that was probably the hardest. The guys were unreal in front of me. What an effort by everybody blocking shots and controlling the puck and not making turnovers. I thought we were phenomenal tonight."

LaBarbera picked up his first NHL win since Oct. 7, 2013, against the New Jersey Devils when he was a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

"I had talked to Jason because he played Friday and Saturday, so it's not very often goalies go three [games] in three [nights] in any league, so I have to believe he was pretty nervous the first five minutes," Boudreau said. "He settled down pretty good. I'm glad the guys came up and played hard for him in front of him."

Roloson, 45, played 16 seasons in the NHL with six teams but has not played in an NHL game since 2011-12 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He

put on the pads in the morning because Andersen was limited to off-ice exercises. Roloson did make an appearance on the bench during the game but spent most of the time in the locker room.

"We were prepared to have an emergency backup, but we would have had to do all the paperwork," Boudreau said. "We were just hoping LaBarbera didn't get hurt."

NHL rules state that "if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is available. This goalkeeper is eligible to sit on the player's bench, in uniform. In the event that the two regular goalkeepers are injured or incapacitated in quick succession, the third goalkeeper shall be provided with a reasonable amount of time to get dressed, in addition to a two-minute warmup (except when he enters the game to defend against a penalty shot)."

Boudreau said he didn't think Gibson's injury is serious and that he would be re-examined when the team returned to Anaheim. LaBarbera accompanied the Ducks on the flight home.

"Until we get both goalies healthy, he's with us," Boudreau said.

LaBarbera said he didn't know if anyone had retrieved the game puck for him as a memento for this unexpected adventure.

"No, no, I don't think so," he said. "I don't even know. I'm still in la-la land. It feels like a dream. I don't even know what happened."

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