Goaltender Jonas Hiller saw the signs last season, feeling that the Anaheim Ducks were “leaning” toward Frederik Andersen.
Then the mental side of hockey took over. Not in a good way.
“It’s tough at that point to not second-guess yourself and be mentally focused out there just to play well,” Hiller said Monday. “If you don’t feel that trust, you’re second-guessing everything, and you kind of go out there not to play bad instead of play well.”
Done in Anaheim, he moved north, signing with the Calgary Flames as a free agent on July 1. Hiller essentially reinvented himself with the resurgent Flames, early in the season, going through a seven-start stretch in which he won six times and lost in a shootout.
Hiller, who will start against his former team Tuesday, admitted it took time to regain that lost confidence.
“I had the whole summer,” Hiller said. “It wasn’t easy. At the same time, I tried to focus on other things and prepare myself well.”
Said Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau: “He’ll be at his absolute best [tonight]. We know that.”
Flames Coach Bob Hartley praised Hiller’s work in the first quarter of the season.
“I’m not here to do the autopsy of what went wrong in Anaheim,” Hartley said. “I wasn’t there. It’s not my job to comment on this.
“What I know is how fortunate we are to have him and [goalie] Karri Ramo. Whenever you can get an established goalie, a goalie that proved he can win some hockey games, knowing how important that position is, he’s a big big part of this turnaround. I love him. He’s a great person, a great worker. He’s an unbelievable goalie.”
Boudreau did provide a retrospective look at last season.
“The diminished role was that he didn’t start in the playoffs. And that was it,” Boudreau said. “We didn’t say that Hillie wasn’t a good goalie. We thought we had two, and one guy [John Gibson] playing in the minors at the time that was winning series all by himself.
“If it was 1 and 1A and we have to flip a coin, his name wasn’t the one that came up.”
A late afternoon practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome was marked by the return of defenseman Francois Beauchemin. He was on the ice for the first time since his bout with the mumps.
“I felt pretty good out there. It’s a good sign,” Beauchemin said.
He is hoping to play Thursday in Vancouver, but that would be best-case scenario. Beauchemin was hospitalized last week when his fever would not go down and he needed several bags of IV fluid. He lost 10 pounds during the illness.
“I wasn’t scared right away because we were expecting a couple of days of fever,” he said. “The fever started Friday night and by Monday, it wasn’t going down and finally Tuesday, I called the doctor. I’ve got to get to the hospital because I’m not going to get any better staying home.”
He was not amused when told about the Kings mascot, Bailey, wearing a surgical gown and gloves at Saturday’s game between the Kings and Ducks at Staples Center.
“I think it’s offside, you don’t mess with diseases like that,” Beauchemin said. “It’s not like the flu bug or something. It’s something pretty serious. But, again, nothing surprises me from the Kings.”
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Etc. Rookie forward William Karlsson has the flu and did not travel to Calgary. The Ducks are hoping he will be able to fly Tuesday morning.