viktor fasth

Ducks’ Viktor Fasth making most of audition between the pipes

As the momentum from the United States' triumph at the World Junior Championships spilled over into the start of an abbreviated NHL season, there was much ado about Anaheim Ducks 2011 second-rounder John Gibson.

Gibson, who carried the Americans to gold in Ufa, was extended an invitation to Ducks camp and widely seen as the goaltender of the future in Anaheim. As for the present? Incumbent Jonas Hiller entered the season with a stern grip on the starting job, and no apparent challengers.

Enter Viktor Fasth. The Ducks inked the two-time Elitserien Goaltender of the Year award winner to a one-year, $1 million contract over the summer to take some pressure off Hiller, who played a franchise-high 73 games in 2011-12.

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The widely unknown 30-year-old stepped onto a North American rink for the first time in his career for the Norfolk Admirals, playing three games prior to his call-up on January 21. In his first three NHL starts, he's a perfect 3-0 with a .938 save percentage. Those games haven't been lacking excitement, either.

His first start in the NHL came down to a shootout, in which he had to stop Nashville's David Legwand to preserve a victory:

After shutting down Zach Parise and the Minnesota Wild with 26 saves in a 3-1 win, Fasth did the same on the road against the NHL's hottest team in San Jose.

Meanwhile, Hiller has allowed four or more goals in three of his first five starts. He hasn't lost his job just yet, but Fasth's play of late has given head coach Bruce Boudreau something to think about. 

It is a bit surprising it took Fasth so long to catch on with an NHL team, given the run of recent success of goaltenders coming out of Elitserien, such as Henrik Lundqvist and Niklas Backstrom.

But with Gibson waiting in the wings, what is Fasth's future in Anaheim? The Ducks have Hiller signed through 2013-14, so for now Fasth may simply be showcasing his talents for his impending free agency this summer. Goaltenders like Jimmy Howard and Mike Smith are likely to be retained by their current franchises, which leaves the market somewhat thin. 

Fellow countryman Backstrom would be the most proven option, assuming the Wild don't retain him first, but if Fasth continues his hot play, he won't be out of work for long – if at all.

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