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Hockey

Ducks backup goaltender Reto Berra gets rewarded for playing the waiting game

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Ducks goaltender Reto Berra pokes the puck away from Sharks center Joe Pavelski during a shootout on Nov. 20 at the SAP Center.
(Jeff Chi / Associated Press)

The life of a No. 3 goaltender in the NHL is a precarious one.

Well, you’re usually not on an NHL team at all.

You’re a de factor third option in net, a fail-safe in case someone is injured. After training camp breaks, you’re optioned to the minors and hope you’re called upon at some point during the season.

That’s the life of Ducks goalie Reto Berra.

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Only he started the season with the big club after backup Ryan Miller injured his left wrist in training camp.

Berra sat there each game, in that bulky gear, itching to jump on the ice.

And finally, with the Ducks on the back end on consecutive games — and with John Gibson spent after making 50 saves Sunday — Berra earned the start.

The Switzerland native made 40 saves on 42 shots and faced nine more shots in the shootout Monday to propel the Ducks over San Jose 3-2 for their third consecutive victory, their first such streak of the season.

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For Berra, it’s a frustrating waiting game, but one he finds rewarding.

“You just go day by day, you don’t know what’s going on,” said Berra, who also has three relief appearances this season. “You work hard, you see what happens. Of course, every day, new opportunities come in. Some doors sometimes close, some doors sometimes get open.”

Berra knew nights like this would be rare.

In four starts last season with the Florida Panthers, Berra struggled with an .876 save percentage. The 30-year-old was eventually sent to the minors and put up pedestrian numbers there. So when he signed with the Ducks this offseason, there were no surprises.

Berra was, after all, joining a team with a top-notch starter and a former Vezina Trophy winner for top goaltenderbehind him.

“I know my role when I signed this contract,” Berra said. “I know exactly the circumstance and everything. Of course, it’s not always easy, but I made the decision to do this. And I want to do this.

“This is where I want to be of course.”

Soon enough, when Miller is recovered from his latest ailment, a lower-body injury, Berra will be back with the San Diego Gulls if he clears waivers.

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He already was sent to the minors this month after Miller was cleared from his wrist injury.

So Berra, on his fourth team in six seasons, knows that performances such as these are basically an audition for other clubs, another chance to face live pucks in a game.

DUCKS NEXT UP

VS. VEGAS

When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830

Update: This is the Ducks’ inaugural regular-season game against the Golden Knights, and surprisingly it’s a pivotal early-season matchup. The expansion squad boasts a 12-6-1 record and sits two points ahead of the Ducks with a game in hand. … The Ducks welcomed Cam Fowler back to the lineup Monday after the defenseman missed 12 games with a knee injury. Francois Beauchemin was the odd man out on the back end, but against Vegas it could be fellow veteran Kevin Bieksa who watches.

sports@latimes.com

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