J-S Giguere getting the best of the Ducks' goalie battle so far

The Canadian Press
By: The Canadian Press
Oct 23, 2006
The Hockey News

J-S Giguere getting the best of the Ducks' goalie battle so far

The Canadian Press
By: The Canadian Press
Oct 23, 2006

Yet he still has something to prove. The 29-year-old came to Anaheim's training camp this season battling Ilya Bryzgalov for the team's No. 1 job and has so far staked claim to it with a solid 5-0-2 start. But Giguere knows how tenuous that position can be.

"You should never be comfortable," he said on a conference call Monday from Anaheim, Calif. "There are maybe three or four guys in this league that nobody's going to steal their spot.

"For us other guys, you've just got to work hard every day. You can't ever be comfortable."

He should know. Giguere emerged as a star during the 2003 playoffs while leading the surprising Ducks all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, where they were beaten by New Jersey.

When he signed a four-year contract that summer with Anaheim he looked like the goalie of the future for the team. However, Giguere struggled to recover from hip surgery last season and had to watch as Bryzgalov got into 11 playoff games.

Rumours swirled during the summer that Giguere was being shopped to other NHL teams and many thought he had lost the Ducks No. 1 job for good.

The speculation didn't faze Giguere, who broke into the league in 1997 with Hartford and has seen several of these situations play out.

"Most teams have two good goaltenders," he said. "There's always someone looking to take your job - somebody younger or bigger and faster trying to steal your job.

"That's just part of the game."

Anaheim is off to a scorching 6-0-2 start, thanks in large part to Giguere.

It's a big year for their big goalie. Giguere is earning US$3.99 million in the final season of his contract and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

His first choice would be to stay in Anaheim, which looks like it could be a contender for years to come. They have a solid core of promising young forwards and two of the best defenceman in the league in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.

"For a goalie, you'd be crazy not to want to play here," said Giguere.

His play will probably dictate whether it happens or not.

Ducks GM Brian Burke spoke with Giguere over the summer to tell him he wasn't actively trying to trade him but wouldn't guarantee that it won't happen in the future.

The GM is only interested in winning.

"I received a number of calls this summer on both goaltenders," Burke said earlier this month. "I told Giggy, 'My job is to improve this team and if that includes you, it includes you."'

For the moment, that is the case.

Giguere is currently among the top handful of goalies with a 1.78 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

Perhaps just as importantly, he and Bryzgalov have maintained a good relationship off the ice and haven't created any distractions for the team.

"I don't compete against Bryz," said Giguere. "He's my teammate and I want him to be successful when he plays. I compete against the puck.

"That's who my enemy is."

Even without a loss in regulation, Anaheim isn't even the best team in the Pacific Division. That honour is currently held by the Dallas Stars and the San Jose Sharks aren't very far behind.

The Ducks expect to be neck and neck with those teams all year.

"I've never played in a division that is this good," said Giguere. "It should be an interesting battle this year."

It'll be a battle in the standings and perhaps also in the Ducks crease.

Giguere is clearly the man of the moment but he knows that the life of an NHL goalie comes with few guarantees.

"Right now I might have the upper hand, but maybe in a month from now he'll have the upper hand," said Giguere. "That's why I just want to take it one day at a time and not worry about anything else."

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J-S Giguere getting the best of the Ducks' goalie battle so far