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Recovered From Surgery, Shields Looks for Net Gains

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Goalie Steve Shields let in a cheap one during a two-on-none drill Wednesday, then turned and swatted the net, causing a water bottle and pucks to fly. This, obviously, is someone that may not be content to be a backup goalie.

Shields is getting his first real taste of life as a Mighty Duck. He was acquired with Jeff Friesen from San Jose for Teemu Selanne in March. Unlike Friesen, Shields never played for the Ducks after ligament surgery in his left shoulder.

Now Shields is healthy and ready to play. He is competing with Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Ducks’ No. 1 goalie the second half of last season.

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The Ducks have not had competition at goalie since their expansion season in 1993-94. The job belonged to Guy Hebert, whose skills deteriorated in the last two seasons. He was released in March.

Giguere was recalled from Cincinnati, the Ducks’ minor league affiliate, Jan. 7 and was given Hebert’s job soon after. Giguere had a 7-5-3 record with a 2.18 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last 15 games.

“That type of competition drives me to play better,” Shields said. “The worst thing you can be is a backup goalie on a team that has a great goalie, who goes out and plays every night. You don’t have any job security in that situation.”

Shields knows what he’s talking about. He was Dominik Hasek’s backup in Buffalo before being traded to the Sharks before the 1998-99 season.

He was the Sharks’ top goalie in 1999-2000. But Shields suffered a sprained ankle at the start of last season and missed eight games.

By the time he returned, his backup, Evgeni Nabokov, was well on his way to winning the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL’s top rookie.

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Shields was shipped to Anaheim, where he gets a shot at winning the Duck job.

“If I play well, I’ll get the opportunity,” Shields said.

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Defenseman Mat Snesrud was wheeled out of the dressing room on a stretcher by paramedics following practice. Snesrud was conscious and alert. Team officials said he suffered from excessive cramping in his legs.

“He couldn’t get rid of them,” Coach Bryan Murray said. “They’re going to put an IV in him. We’ll give him tomorrow off.”

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Defenseman Ruslan Salei, who is rehabilitating from knee surgery, skated by himself for 20 minutes.... The Ducks will hold their only scrimmage today from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

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