Gerber Better Than the Average Backup

Times Staff Writer

If ever there were a goalie who could gripe a little bit, it would be the Mighty Ducks' Martin Gerber.

On most nights, he sits on the bench, charting faceoffs, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere handles the goalie duties. Which is fine with Gerber.

But the few times he gets to play, the Ducks seem to do everything they can to keep him from victory. Gerber has given up only seven goals in his last five starts and has a 0-4-1 record in those games.

"Well, it's only frustrating after the game is over," Gerber said Friday after giving up two goals in a 3-1 loss to New Jersey. "All I can do is my job."

Although his recent streak has him winless, it has improved his other numbers. He has a 2.44 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.

"Is there is a better backup in the NHL right now?" Coach Mike Babcock said. "I don't know if there is."

Whether he is or isn't, Gerber has made a smooth transition to the NHL in his first season in North America. At 28, he is older than most rookies. He also has gained quality experience in the last year playing for his native Switzerland in the Olympics and playing one season in Sweden's elite league.

But there still were radical adjustments Gerber had to make and he has handled them smoothly. His season hasn't been easy, as he had to rush home to see his ill mother in November. She died of cancer soon after.

"Being the backup goalie is the toughest job in hockey," Giguere said. "You don't get to play as much as you would like. You have to stay out there in practice and let everyone take extra shots. Sometimes, when the game isn't going well, you get thrown into game when your team is losing. But Martin is so calm about it, whether he's playing or on the bench."

Even about the Duck offense, which has provided only three goals in his last five starts.

"I don't know what Martin did to the fellows, but we've got to work something out," Babcock said.

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