ANAHEIM, Calif. – Jonas Hiller is cautiously confident he has kicked his vertigo. The Anaheim Ducks are really hoping he is correct.
The all-star goalie said Friday he is finally free of vertigo symptoms, and he expects to be ready for Anaheim’s training camp next month. After spending more than two months away from the ice following the Ducks’ season, Hiller has been working out daily back home in Switzerland with no problems.
“I wish I knew the future, but for right now, it’s feeling better,” Hiller said by phone from Switzerland.
Hiller was a likely contender for the Vezina Trophy last season before he was struck by an apparent case of vertigo. He missed all but 83 minutes of the Ducks’ season after the all-star break while struggling with an odd illness that left him lightheaded and dizzy on the ice.
Hiller tried numerous comebacks and coping strategies, but nothing worked—and no doctors seemed entirely certain why he felt so weird.
“I was trying not to think too much about it, thinking you had to adapt to it,” Hiller said. “The frustrating part was nobody could tell me what it was.”
Hiller still isn’t exactly sure what it was, although he visited several specialists in Switzerland after the season.
“It’s always easier to explain stuff in your first language,” Hiller said. “I got some opinions, but nobody could say exactly where it was coming from.”
The Ducks, who signed the goalie to a four-year, US$18 million contract before last season, are counting on Hiller to return to his formidable form. He has been the Ducks’ starter since the 2008-09 season, when he won the job away from longtime goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and he was among the NHL’s top goalies last season, going 26-16-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage, until his injury.
“I want to play my best (from the start of training camp),” Hiller said. “If I go on the ice, I want to be back to where I was before the All-Star break.”
Anaheim managed to finish fourth in the Western Conference despite Hiller’s injury, but the Ducks did it with a revolving door in their crease.
Curtis McElhinney struggled mightily when thrust into Hiller’s starting spot, so Anaheim traded him and acquired Dan Ellis, who performed fairly well. Ellis will be back in camp next month, but Anaheim didn’t re-sign Ray Emery, Hiller’s replacement late in the regular season and for the final five games of their first-round playoff series with Nashville. Emery has a tryout contract with Chicago.
Hiller returned to the ice last month for a camp with Francois Allaire, the Ducks’ former goaltending coach and his longtime guru. Since then, Hiller has been training with SC Bern, a club in the top Swiss league, before the Swiss season begins.
Anaheim opens training camp Sept. 17, and Hiller will be there with his fingers crossed.
“I haven’t played games for quite a while now, so I can’t make any promises,” he said. “I’m feeling great in practice. I see the puck well and everything. I’m definitely looking forward to be back playing as soon as possible. … I definitely hope it’s a one-time thing. If it is, I don’t really care what caused it.”