Hiller declares himself fit for camp.

It wasn’t a particularly surprising announcement, given the nature of reports describing Jonas Hiller’s progress this summer.

It was a big announcement, however, enough for Hiller to phone in from Switzerland this afternoon for a conference call with North American reporters: The Ducks’ All-Star goalie is fit to play.

“I see the puck well and everything,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being back playing as soon as possible.”

The health of Hiller, who was limited to three games after the All-Star break because of vertigo-like symptoms, was arguably the team’s biggest question mark with less than a month remaining before training camp.

Without actually donning pads and making saves, Hiller did his best Friday to relay the message that he’s going to be OK.

“I guess for the last month and a half when I’ve been skating, it’s been progressing almost day by day,” he said. “At some point, I got back to where I’m used to be.”

Plenty more from Hiller in tomorrow’s editions.

Jonas Hiller reports progress in Switzerland.

Swiss television hit what must be the peak of its popularity in Southern Cailfornia on Tuesday.

The station Schweizer Fernsehen (literally, Swiss Television — how original!) published on its website a progress report from Hiller’s off-season training in his homeland. The images (linked here on the Ducks’ Facebook page) and the interview (translated here on Yahoo.com) can be summed up in one word: optimistisch.

“I’m accustomed to getting better every day, [someone] who sets myself new goals on a daily basis,” Hiller said, according to the Yahoo! translation. “I had to give myself so much time to progress. This was a difficult and especially depressing time.”

According to the report, Hiller has been working out with the Swiss club SC Bern, whose season starts in September.

While practicing is a good sign of progress for a player who was shut down at the end of last season, it’s still too early to say whether or not Hiller can meet his stated goal of playing in the All-Star Game again. Throughout his recovery process late last season, Hiller noted that his biggest challenge was tracking pucks at game speed.

The video shows Hiller taking some pucks, and making some saves, but that’s not a lot of information to go on. A more accurate diagnosis may have to wait until the preseason.

Ducks have a ‘Plan B’ if Selanne can’t play.

If Teemu Selanne doesn’t play in 2010-11, the Ducks are prepared to go forward with a “Plan B.”

That plan may be closer to reality than it was a week ago. General manager Bob Murray said he spoke with Selanne three days ago and the 41-year-old has hit a snag in his recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery in June.

“He’s been struggling a bit,” Murray said. “I think he was getting depressed with the whole thing. Last week I think he had a few days where it wasn’t bugging him. I think he intends to go hard this week with the bigger boys in Helsinki. We are scheduled to speak after this week is over.”

Murray said he won’t hang a timeframe on Selanne, who recently told a Finnish newspaper that he won’t decide whether to retire or re-sign until September at the earliest. The Ducks took the same approach in 2007 when the right wing contemplated retirement, ultimately waiting until December-more than two months into the regular season – for Selanne to return.
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Ducks trade for Cogliano, sign Drouin-Deslauriers, etc.

The Ducks took their biggest step toward addressing their biggest area of need this summer today, trading a second-round draft pick in 2013 to the Edmonton Oilers for center Andrew Cogliano.

The 24-year-old has never missed a game in four NHL seasons – all with Edmonton – while racking up 57 goals, 146 points and 137 penalty minutes. Listed at 5-foot-10, Cogliano compares favorably to recently-retired forward Todd Marchant, another player whose two-way game evolved in Edmonton before he arrived in Anaheim.

“I’ve matured as a player,” Cogliano said. “At this point in my career, I can create offense but also take up the def side of things. I played a lot of penalty kill last year. I feel like I can contribute at both ends of the rink.”

In Cogliano and Brandon McMillan, the Ducks now have two viable options for the third-line center position. McMillan finished a strong rookie campaign with 11 goals and 21 points, but his 38.9 percent success rate in the faceoff circle was the lowest on the team. Cogliano only won 41.6 percent of draws last season, but his 461 faceoff wins were the most of any Oiler, and that figure should reasonably increase if he’s surrounded by better and hungrier players.

Cogliano also scored 18 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons before dipping to 10 and 11 the last two years, respectively.

The Ducks’ third- and fourth-line positions – arguably their biggest area of weakness in the playoffs – are more clear but still a little muddy. Cogliano and enforcer George Parros are all but locks; so are youngsters Brandon McMillan, Dan Sexton and Matt Beleskey if they don’t take a step backwards, and Jean-Francois Jacques. There could be one or two open positions –for a fourth-line center, or a third- or fourth-line left wing — with a decent crop of candidates lying in the AHL and junior ranks.

Considering his two-way potential and his faceoff skills, it’s safe to say that adding Cogliano should allow McMillan to switch to either the left or right wing. Counting those two, along with Beleskey, Dan Sexton, Kyle Palmieri or perhaps Emerson Etem -to name just four candidates -the Ducks could have a young third line with above-average speed.

“We dabbled in this a bit over the last year and a half,” general manager Bob Murray said. “The biggest thing for us is speed. We tried to increase our team speed the last couple of years and we really haven’t accomplished that. He can definitely skate.”
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Iiro Tarkki update. Update.

The team still could not confirm the signing of Finnish goalie Iiro Tarkki as of this morning, but Tarkki’s agent appears to have confirmed it to a Finnish publication (thanks to Google translate).

Update (3 p.m.): The team has confirmed the signing. From the official release:
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Updates on Beauchemin, goalies, and what went wrong (again).

Francois Beauchemin was the only Ducks player who did not participate in practice Thursday, but head coach Randy Carlyle said the defenseman would be available for Game 2 tomorrow at Honda Center.

“Beauch is resting, what we call a maintenance day. He will skate tomorrow morning and he’s available to us tomorrow night,” Carlyle said.

Beauchemin is dealing with a lower-body injury, the result of blocking a shot during the regular season. “It’s just taking a little more time to heal,” he said. “I’ve been taking medicine for it, and painkillers and stuff. It’s good on game days but on practice days it’s tough to get out there and force it.”

The Ducks’ bigger question is in goal.
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Emery ‘not sure’ about Game 1, other notes from practice.

Ray Emery took part in his first full practice Tuesday, one of three Ducks goalies on the ice along with Dan Ellis and Jonas Hiller, but couldn’t commit to being ready for Game 1 Wednesday against the Nashville Predators.

“I’m not sure. We’ll see how it goes when we get there,” said Emery, who has not played since leaving last Wednesday’s game against San Jose with an undisclosed lower-body injury. “I’m just happy with the way practice went today and we’ll go from there.”

Since Hiller has only played in three games since the All-Star Break, that leaves Dan Ellis as the likely starter by default. As usual Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle didn’t say who would get the call, but Ellis is the safe choice given his health and solid performances in wins over the Kings last Friday and Saturday.

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Dallas wins, playoffs at stake tomorrow, and more.

The Ducks must wait another day to clinch a playoff berth after the Dallas Stars handed the Colorado Avalanche a 4-2 loss Thursday.

Aside from whether or not they will participate in the postseason, the biggest question facing the Ducks in their home-and-home series against the Kings is who will be in goal.

Ray Emery did not practice Thursday, one day after leaving midway through the Ducks’ 6-2 win over San Jose with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Emery finished the game on the bench, while Dan Ellis finished the final 29 minutes between the pipes.

“I felt a lot better this morning than I thought I would last night,” Emery said Thursday. “It’s a thing where I’m trying to be cautious, because I’m leery of things I’ve had in the past and I want to be able to contribute when I’m in there for a long period of time. It’s more of me being cautious.”

Said head coach Randy Carlyle, “we felt it was best for him to work out off-ice and have a treatment this morning, and we’ll make an assessment tomorrow morning at the morning skate.”

Emery was not the only Ducks player missing at practice.
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Ducks 2, St. Louis 1.

Ray Emery is back.

That was the takeaway from his 30-save performance Wednesday that preserved a 2-1 victory in an often ugly game for the Ducks.

Jason Blake scored both Anaheim goals, finishing a second-period breakaway with a backhand shot that went in off a Blues defenseman, and deflecting a Lubomir Visnovsky shot down and in in the third period. But even he was in a deferential mood after Emery’s big breakthrough.

Emery’s reflexes did not look like those of a man who had not started an NHL game since Feb. 1 of last year. Nor did the time off leave him any less feisty — Emery was shoving players out of his own crease before assuming the butterfly position in the blink of an eye. It takes a special athlete to do that under ordinary circumstances, but even more so when you have a piece of bone from your leg lodged in your right hip.

Between Emery and Dan Ellis, the Ducks can breathe a bit easier about Jonas Hiller’s slow recovery time. The goalie told reporters at this morning’s skate that he “is going in the right direction” but still can’t see the puck well enough to play.

With only 12 games left in the season, the Ducks occupy the eighth position in the West but still have Calgary and Nashville nipping at their heels. Both the Flames and Preds play tomorrow, and the Ducks could find themselves back in 10th place after their day off.

But should the Ducks make the playoffs (and should Hiller be healthy by then), they could have three goalies capable of starting Game 1 of a first-round series. It’s a good problem to have, one that seemed unlikely when Curtis McElhinney and Timo Pielmeier were manning the nets.

Get all the game details in tomorrow’s editions. Some notes and observations:
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No setback, Hiller says, just the same strange symptoms.

The nature of Jonas Hiller’s injury, and a timetable for his recovery, seem about as clear as they were a month ago.

Asked after Tuesday’s practice to describe exactly what he had, Hiller said the latest diagnosis of something called “positional vertigo” was ruled out.

“They can cure that pretty easily through different positionings and turning you around, and get rid of that pretty quick,” he said. “They tried that a couple times. it didn’t work on me so they ruled that out. So it’s a kind of vertigo. Nobody can really tell me where it’s coming from. Some people think it’s a virus in my inner ear. Other people say that my inner ear got concussed. Nobody can really tell me. Sure I want to know what caused it. I want to get better.”

In so many words, Hiller said he’s been advised to provoke the feelings of panic that are often triggered by turning his head or passing the puck, “to realize that it’s a normal situation.”

The scariest aspect of this is that, since he doesn’t know the source of the problem, Hiller has no assurances that it isn’t something he will have to deal with long-term.

That potentially bleak outlook contradicts what appeared to be a big sign of progress –Hiller’s first practice with teammates since he was placed on injured reserve Feb. 16.
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