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Minnesota Wild's Dany Heatley checks Edmonton Oilers' Nail Yakupov in the back during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Edmonton February 21, 2013.  (Reuters)

Minnesota Wild's Dany Heatley checks Edmonton Oilers' Nail Yakupov in the back during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Edmonton February 21, 2013. 


NHL Notebook

Even-strength scoring a glaring weakness for Oilers Add to ...

Fasth’s contributions cannot be overstated, given how the absence of a quality reliever cost the Ducks so badly last year when Hiller struggled because of the lingering effects of vertigo. Hiller was far better in the second half than in the first, but by then, the Ducks had fallen out of the playoff race and cost Randy Carlyle his job as coach. This year, facing a similar potential crisis, the Ducks received high quality goaltending from their backup – and didn’t miss a beat. Fasth is just the third goalie in NHL history to win his first eight career decisions (the others: Ray Emery, with the Ottawa Senators from 2003-05 and Bob Froese with the 1982-83 Philadelphia Flyers).

Both Emery and Froese went on to have good careers, but faced some bumps in the road too. The same could happen with Fasth too, although he seems uniquely equipped to handle the challenges that may come his way, given his intriguing back story.

When asked this week how old he was when he could reasonably expect his dream of playing in the NHL to come true, he answered with one word: “29.” When I laughed at that, he laughed too and elaborated: “Actually, after I had my first year in Swedish Elite League, teams started to contact me and that’s when I first thought of it – thought that it would be a possibility. So yeah, as funny as it sounds, it’s true.”

Fasth is not the only Ducks player to moonlight as a teacher in his formative years. Teemu Selanne did it as well – although Selanne taught kindergarten. Trying to juggle two careers was a challenge, Fasth noted: “There were some tough times, but I’m glad I’ve done that. I know how it is to play in the lower levels and I know there are many good hockey players just fighting their way – having a day-time job at the same time they try to perform at the hockey rink, so it’s pretty tough in the lower leagues.”

Fasth worked with Ducks’ goalie coach Pete Peeters last summer to adjust to the smaller North American ice surface and then played three games with the team’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk before joining the team just before the start of the shortened season. This week’s contract extension means Fasth could be in line to eventually replace Hiller as the team’s starter somewhere down the line.

It wouldn’t be the first time a 30-something goaltender emerged (see Johnny Bower, Dominik Hasek, Dwayne Roloson, Tim Thomas and scores of others) to make an impact in the NHL. The Ducks play the defending Stanley Cup champion and cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, on Monday night. Depending upon the goaltending rotation for both teams, it could be Quick (Jonathan) versus Fasth – and may the best man win. You gotta hope anyway.

AND FINALLY: Loved Danny Briere’s reaction to the charges made by Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tanner Glass that he’s a dirty player. "Honestly, I didn't even know who he was,” said Briere. “I might have played once against him in Winnipeg. Maybe we have our history in PlayStation. That's probably where he remembers me from. That's about the only place I played against him” … Just about everybody will tell you Stanley Cups are not won in October or February, but the Chicago Blackhawks fast start – points in their first 16 games – bodes well for a championship down the road, if history is any indication. Of the five teams in NHL history that earned points in 13 or more consecutive games from the start of the season, four went on to win the Stanley Cup, including the most recent example, the 2006-07 Ducks. The only one that didn’t – the 1994-95 Penguins … Back on Valentine’s Day, the Maple Leafs’ Mark Fraser put a big hit on the Carolina Hurricanes Jeff Skinner who, like a lot of players, felt okay in the immediate aftermath of the hit, practised the next day and only began to experience symptoms a few days later. Right now, he is out in definitely, the second time in two seasons he’s been sidelined with a concussion. Last year, he missed 16 games in all. The 2011 Calder Trophy winner was off to a flying start, with 14 points in his first 13 games, second on the team behind Eric Staal … Meanwhile, the 2012 Calder Trophy winner, Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog, is inching closer to a return, after he suffered a concussion earlier this season on a hit from the Sharks’ Brad Stuart. Landeskog accompanied the team on a three-game California road trip that begins with a game in Los Angeles Saturday afternoon and was expected to participate in contact drills Friday. "You've got to make sure you're responsible with what you're doing out there,” Landeskog told the Denver Post. “You've got to make sure you keep your head up. I didn't keep it up as much as I should have.”

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