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Gerber Saves Ducks Again

Times Staff Writer

Goalie Martin Gerber is only here to be a caddy. Mighty Duck Coach Mike Babcock has made that perfectly clear on many occasions.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere is the Ducks’ No. 1 goalie.

“Martin is here to be Jiggy’s helper,” Babcock said last week.

Babcock reiterated that Thursday morning, saying, “Giguere is our guy.”

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Trouble is, this Gerber keeps saving the Ducks. He did so again Thursday in a 2-2 tie with Vancouver in front of 18,422 at the General Motors Place.

Gerber, a 28-year old rookie, stopped 29 of 31 shots, including a blast by Sami Salo with the Canucks on a power play in overtime.

His performance and Paul Kariya’s short-handed goal allowed the Ducks to take away a point in a game they easily could have lost. What it didn’t do was take the sting away from losing center Adam Oates.

Oates, the Ducks’ marquee free-agent signee this summer, suffered a broken left hand in two places when he was slashed in the second period. Oates will return to Southern California today to be re-examined.

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“I really didn’t feel any pain,” Oates said. “But when I got to the bench, I took my glove off and my finger was really twisted.”

The Ducks will not make a move until after Saturday’s game at Edmonton.

This was far from the way Babcock wanted to begin a five-game road trip. The Ducks will also play 10 of their next 13 games away from home. Babcock isn’t happy about it, but he put a positive spin on it.

“When your team is trying to find itself, it’s way easier to find that on the road,” Babcock said. “The next nine days is a great chance for us to get to know each other.”

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Of course, that bonding thing is a little easier when your goalie stands on his head.

Gerber, who played for Switzerland in the 2002 Olympics, started his first NHL game on Sunday and was sharp in a 3-2 overtime victory over Colorado. The Ducks provided him plenty of support that night.

“He has a lot of experience,” defenseman Fredrik Olausson said. “He has played in he Olympics and the world championships. But that’s not the same as the NHL. He’s just doing a fine job out there.”

The only two goals he gave up followed turnovers, one scored by Brendan Morrison in the first period and the other by Todd Warriner in the third period.

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“You got to give him credit,” Babcock said. “He did a real good job tonight.”

Good enough to start again Saturday?

“I have to think on that,” Babcock said.

With Gerber as their backbone, the Ducks did not give up a power-play goal, despite nine penalties.

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The Ducks were killing a penalty, trailing, 2-1, when Steve Rucchin brought the puck into the Canuck zone. He slid a pass to Kariya, who somehow managed to get off a back-hander with a defender draped on his back. The shot zipped past goalie Dan Cloutier’s shoulder, tying the score, 2-2, at 8 minutes 28 seconds of the third period.

“I have been working a lot on backhands,” Kariya said. “I got a little luck there. I guess practice makes perfect.”

Trailing, 1-0, Andy McDonald got the Ducks even in the second period, as he managed to sweep the puck into the net while diving five minutes into the period.


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