ANAHEIM — Jonas Hiller was back in his familiar workplace Monday morning at Honda Center, patrolling the goal crease in a game-like situation.
Never mind that the other team consisted of fellow members of the Ducks, or that he had little time to warm up before the 60-minute scrimmage, or that he didn’t get much action while rotating with two other goalies, Hiller was just glad to be back between the posts.
Hiller was sidelined with vertigo for much of the second half of last season. He started just three games following his first All-Star appearance in late January, and was pulled early in two after allowing a flurry of goals.
The lack of preparation and activity left Hiller feeling "alright" about his participation in the scrimmage, which was won by Hiller’s opponents, 6-1. That’s a lot better than the way he felt last spring, when his ability to track the puck slipped away in a haze of lightheadedness and uncertainty.
“Still not everything feels exactly the same, but I think it was also like that before,” he said. “I’m pretty happy with the way it’s going right now and I’m definitely looking forward to playing the first game.”
Hiller didn’t know when he’d make his first appearance in a preseason exhibition game, and Ducks coach Randy Carlyle wouldn’t say, but Hiller said the sooner the better.
“I might not mind not going on the road, though,” he said with a smile.
After last season ended with the Ducks losing to the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs, Hiller wanted to get as far away from Honda Center as he could. He went home to his native Switzerland and spent the next three months just relaxing and visiting with friends and family. Other than a week in July, he stayed off the ice until the middle of August.
Hiller says he believes the hiatus from hockey helped diminish the vertigo symptoms, and gave him a much-needed break from the daily updates he felt obliged to provide to his teammates and coaching staff.
“Just being around family and friends helped me get a little distance from being in the dressing room, going out there and still not feeling right,” he said.
In mid-August, he began working out and practicing with the Swiss club, SC Bern, which starts its season a month earlier than the NHL.
“It was great for me to get with the team there because they were almost close to season shape,” he said. “The intensity was quite high.”
Hiller’s return will be vital if the Ducks want to improve on last season. Dan Ellis, who was traded to the Ducks as insurance after Hiller first began experiencing vertigo, is back this season, but Ray Emery, who won the No. 1 job from Ellis late in the regular season and into the playoffs, wasn’t offered a contract by the Ducks and is currently in Chicago on a tryout with the Blackhawks.
Ryan sits out scrimmage
In other injury news from Monday, right wing Bobby Ryan did not participate in the scrimmage after experiencing a groin strain during practice Sunday. Carlyle said he expected Ryan would be back on the ice Tuesday.
“The training staff felt it would be best to rest another day,” Carlyle said. “His strength is back and he feels much better than he did yesterday.”
It was also announced that Kurtis Foster, a veteran defenseman who was acquired from Edmonton in a trade this summer, is expected to be out two to four weeks after undergoing a procedure to remove a piece of wire from his left thigh.
Foster broke his femur in March 2008 as a member of the Minnesota Wild and the wire was inserted to stabilize the injury. The metal has been causing inflammation and irritation and the medical staff determined it should to be removed. Foster's recovery could carry into the start of the season, Oct. 7 in Helsinki, Finland.
Mathieu Carle, a defenseman with limited NHL experience, wasn’t feeling well enough to participate in the scrimmage after a hard collision into the boards during practice Sunday.
Maxine Macenauer, a third-round pick in 2008 who is trying to make the team after playing with Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse, suffered a strained groin Saturday but is also close to returning.