Coming off another disappointing defensive effort, the suddenly struggling Ducks look to avoid losing three straight games for the first time in nearly three months Saturday night when they visit the St. Louis Blues.
Hiller had appeared in two games for Anaheim (32-23-4) after being hit in the mask twice in the All-Star game, but was finally placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a recurrence of fatigue and lightheadedness.
Backup Curtis McElhinney(notes) posted a 2.28 goals-against average and one shutout in winning his first three starts as Hiller’s replacement, but has surrendered 12 goals in losing the last two. The Ducks, who were an NHL-best 14-4-0 in their previous 14 games, haven’t lost three in a row since dropping a season-worst six straight from Nov. 14-26.
McElhinney called his performance “disheartening” in Wednesday’s 7-6 loss to Washington, and said that word was again appropriate after he made 21 saves in Friday’s 5-1 loss to Minnesota.
“There need to be some saves made at critical points in the game, and they aren’t happening right now,” McElhinney said. “I need to find a way to get it done.”
The Ducks remain in a three-way tie for third place in the Pacific Division, three points behind first-place Phoenix. Coach Randy Carlyle was noncommittal about who will start between the pipes Saturday, saying “You’ll have to be at warmup.”
Timo Pielmeier(notes), who has been recalled from the ECHL to serve as McElhinney’s backup, has yet to play in an NHL game. Veteran Ray Emery(notes), who signed a one-year deal with Anaheim last week, is on a conditioning stint with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse.
McElhinney has recorded a 4.06 GAA in losing all three career starts against the Blues, all in St. Louis.
Like Anaheim, the Blues (26-21-9) also recently placed their starting goalie on IR, but they’ve responded much better.
Ty Conklin(notes) stopped 25 shots in Friday’s 3-0 win over Buffalo in his first start since Jaroslav Halak(notes) went on IR with a right hand ailment. T.J. Oshie(notes) led the offense with a goal and assist for St. Louis, which won its second straight and improved to 4-1-2 in its last seven games after going 2-8-2 in its previous 12.
“To be honest, we had a lot of distractions today. Seeing Brew go right before the game, our captain,” Conklin said. “He’s a hell of a good teammate, so it’s pretty impressive how the team responded.”
The wheeling and dealing continued Saturday when the Blues sent former 2006 No. 1 overall pick and defenseman Erik Johnson(notes), Jay McClement(notes) and a first-round pick in either 2011 or 2012 to the Colorado Avalanche for forward Chris Stewart(notes) and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk(notes).
“We’re very excited to acquire a young emerging power forward in Chris Stewart and a top young NHL defenseman in Kevin Shattenkirk,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said on the team’s website. “These are two solid young players which will help us now and continue to grow and improve our team.”
Although Conklin played well against the Sabres, he struggled mightily in Anaheim last month, yielding all seven goals. He had posted a 1.25 GAA and a shutout in winning his first four starts against the Ducks.
Perry, who is tied for fourth in the NHL with 30 goals, has five goals and 10 assists during a seven-game points streak. He had a goal and an assist against the Blues last month.