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Hebert Bucks Up Duck Playoff Hopes

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Guy Hebert, the cause of much concern for the Mighty Ducks in recent weeks, was the center of attention after Friday’s game.

Hebert was mobbed by teammates, who surrounded him following a 4-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks that kept the Ducks alive in the race for the playoffs. The message was clear.

Of all the things the Ducks need in the last 10 games to get into the playoffs, Hebert tops the list. When he’s on, the Ducks are on their way. When he’s not right--be it because of injury or inconsistency--they are in trouble.

Friday at the Pond, there was little doubt how the Ducks felt about Hebert.

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“He was unbelievable,” defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky said. “He realizes what time of year it is and what we need from him. He is the reason we won tonight.”

That may be a bit over the top. Hebert didn’t add a lot to his career highlight reel.

Then again, when things got dicey, Hebert got on a roll.

The Sharks, who now lead the Ducks by four points in the race for the last playoff spot, peppered Hebert in the first and third periods. They outshot the Ducks, 12-1, during a 15-minute stretch of the third period.

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Hebert gave up a goal to Todd Harvey, who jammed he puck point-blank, and a fluke to Jeff Friesen, who had the puck go off his stick into the net while sliding on his face.

Delete those two plays, and Hebert was perfect. Even with those goals, he was close, stopping 36 of 38 shots.

“When Guy is on, we have a chance to win,” Coach Craig Hartsburg said. “And he was outstanding tonight.”

This hasn’t been the best of seasons for Hebert, the last original Duck. His hot streaks have seemed shorter and his bad nights have been glaring.

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Hebert hit an extended rough patch in early February. During a nine-game stretch, he gave up 33 goals, an average of 3.67 per game.

Frustration by all concerned hit a zenith in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on March 8. With the game seemingly won, Hebert let in a soft tying goal with less than two minutes left, which caused Hartsburg to throw a fit on the bench.

Health has also been a concern.

Five times this season, Hebert has been slammed into the net. He missed two games with a neck injury suffered when Phoenix’s Keith Tkachuk took at run at him in December. Hebert was knocked into the net in three consecutive games in February.

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Saturday in St. Louis, he was knocked into the net twice, the second time on an accidental collision with teammate Paul Kariya. Hebert, who had stonewalled the Blues through three periods and part of overtime, had to be helped off the ice and was not seen again for days.

He reemerged Wednesday and stopped 20 of 22 shots in a 2-2 tie with the Kings.

“Everyone has slumps,” left wing Kariya said. “That’s just a part of hockey, a part of any sport. Guy has dealt with it, picked up his work ethic and now he is being rewarded.”


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