Anaheim is resting goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to give him more time to grieve the death of his father in December, according to the Orange County Register. "What we're trying to do is give Giguere an opportunity to do what he has to do to get his game back," Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told the Register. "The guy is going through a huge loss in his life. He lost his father. We feel we have to give him the time and space, try to create an environment around him that allows him some time. That's the most important thing. We think this is the best route to take in this situation, and we're going to live with it."
Jonas Hiller made his fifth consecutive start Wednesday, stopping 22 of 24 shots in a 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Carlyle, whose Ducks are 3-2 since the All-Star break, told the Register that Giguere eventually will get a chance to regain the starting job. The Ducks play again Thursday in Nashville, so he might earn the start against the Predators.
"It's not like he's not going to play for our hockey club again. He's going to get his opportunity. Jonas Hiller has come in and given us the goaltending that's necessary to have some success here in the last little while, but we're not afraid to go back to Giguere," Carlyle told the newspaper on Monday. "He knows he's going to get his opportunity. We've talked about it. We've set a plan in place, and we're going to take our approach."
Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger praised the backup netminder's recent play. "Hiller's making the big stops when we need it," Pronger told the Los Angeles Times. "We've had to rely on him."
Anaheim sits fifth in the Western Conference standings, but it's just four points ahead of ninth-place Columbus, Edmonton and Phoenix, so Carlyle had little choice but to use Hiller on Wednesday instead of the slumping Giguere, who is 1-5-2 with a 3.68 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in his past nine games.
Hiller is 14-11-1, and his 2.17 GAA ranks fourth in the NHL while his .925 save percentage ranks fifth. Giguere is 12-12-4 with a 3.08 GAA and .904 save percentage in 31 games.
Hiller, 26, has gradually turned his backup role into more of a tandem situation with Giguere. The Swiss native has played in 29 games and easily could receive the majority of the Ducks' starts for the rest of the season. He's owned in 16.9 percent of ESPN.com leagues and climbing up the most-added chart, so grab him before it's too late if you need help in the goaltending department.
Wild's Bouchard heating up
After a poor start to the season, Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard has rediscovered his scoring touch and shown newfound confidence. Bouchard had an empty-net goal and an assist in the Wild's 3-0 victory over the Ducks on Wednesday to give him three goals, six assists and a plus-6 during a four-game points streak.
Bouchard, 24, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune he was buoyed by the long All-Star break. It has helped him be the team's best player, stickhandle beautifully and show patience before setting up teammates.
"We talked about his game, and you know, it's good because he's doing certain things we want, and he's getting better," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire told the Star Tribune. "So it's great. Not only good, it's great."
Bouchard has 10 goals, 20 assists and is a minus-5 in 46 games. He'll fall short of surpassing last season's career-high 63 points, but he's a good fantasy option while he's hot.
Gonchar gets closer
You should scour the waiver wire to see whether someone in your league grew tired of having Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar hold down a roster spot. Gonchar, who has been out all season while recovering from shoulder surgery, has been cleared to take part in contact drills in practice, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Although Gonchar didn't specify when he'll return and told the Tribune-Review he hopes it's sometime in February, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday that "it might be sooner than we expected."
"I have to get my timing back," Gonchar told the Post-Gazette. "When you're out of the game for five months, it's not that easy to jump in and be on the same page with guys who have been playing for five months."
Shoulder pain continues to be an issue as Gonchar adjusts to contact, although he told the Post-Gazette he doesn't expect to be pain-free when he returns. The Penguins, who are on the playoff bubble in the Eastern Conference and rank 23rd with a 16.4 percent power play, eagerly await Gonchar's return. "We don't want to rush him, but it's gonna be up to Gonch to figure when he's gonna feel comfortable with the contact," Penguins coach Michel Therrien told the Tribune-Review. "It's good news to see him finally get involved in drills physically."
Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom missed his third consecutive game Wednesday night and tells The Detroit News he's worried his groin injury is as bad as it was last postseason when he needed offseason hernia surgery. "I'm really concerned," Holmstrom told the News. "I don't know what to do. Playoffs [are] not that far off. We've got to figure something out. It feels awfully close like last time, same kind of pain when I'm skating."
As of Wednesday, Holmstrom and the Red Wings were still waiting to hear back from a specialist after an MRI exam he had Monday was inconclusive. "He wants a resolution," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press. "If he needs surgery, he wants to get in now so he can be ready for the playoffs."
During last season's playoffs, Holmstrom underwent nearly daily painkiller injection, according to the Free Press. "They [team doctors] couldn't find anything [on the MRI], but they couldn't find anything last time, either," Holmstrom told the News. "There's something there for sure. I tried to skate [Monday]. It was just getting more sore the longer I was skating."
TSN.ca reports that Sean Avery will soon be cleared from the NHL and NHLPA's behavioral modification program and will begin skating in an effort to resume his hockey career. The Stars won't have him back but will put him on waivers and look for some AHL team to take him. No team will want to be on the hook for the remaining three years and $12 million on Avery's contract. But there might be a GM or owner desperate enough to make the playoffs that he'd grab Avery on re-entry waivers that would require the Stars to split the remaining salary with the claiming team. It's unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
Jim Wilkie is a former NHL editor and writer for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.