Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller said Wednesday that vertigo might be the cause of the discomfort that has forced him onto injured reserve twice this season with no sign of imminent relief.
Speaking to reporters after the Ducks’ morning skate at the Honda Center, Hiller said he still doesn’t feel right and is limiting his activity to light off-ice workouts. Because of the unpredictability of his situation, the Ducks recalled Ray Emery from Syracuse of the American Hockey League to dress as the backup to Curtis McElhinney on Wednesday night in Anaheim against the Kings.
Emery was signed as a free agent for goaltending depth in the organization and the Ducks’ original plan was for him to spend several weeks in the AHL. However, Hiller’s ailment and the struggles of McElhinney and Timo Pielmeier scuttled that plan. Pielmeier was returned to Syracuse of the AHL Wednesday, leaving assistant equipment manager Jeff Tyni as one of the goalies in Wednesday’s optional practice.
Hiller said he has never experienced anything like this before.
“Not at all, which is kind of tough. When you break something it’s broken and it takes a certain amount of time and then it should be good again,” he said. “It’s something that nobody can really tell me how long it’s going to last or how long it’s going to take so I think that’s the tough part.”
Hiller has been having an outstanding season and was the lone Western Conference goalie chosen for the All-Star Game. He excelled in that game despite taking two shots in the face. He said doctors don’t believe those blows are at the root of his problems.
“They kind of ruled out the concussion thing. They’re saying it’s kind of vertigo,” Hiller said. “They couldn’t really tell me where it’s coming from or whatever so that’s kind of the tough part, to just accept it and not knowing what it’s coming from and just work with that to try to desensitize my brain.
“With all the input I get from my body it seems like I’m almost overreacting to stuff that’s normally not important or the brain would kind of leave out because it’s just everyday things, but it seems like right now I’m all over the place because I almost got too much feedback from my body.”
Hiller said he feels symptoms when he moves his head or turns. “It doesn’t really bother me in everyday life because you can kind of limit that, but the problem is on the ice I have to follow the puck and that’s kind of the tough part, when I have to move the head,” he said.
“I definitely feel better than a couple days ago but I still don’t feel like it’s 100% so we’ll see. Hopefully one of these days I’ll be able to see how it goes on the ice, try that out, because I can’t really tell how that’s going to feel like because I haven’t been on the ice for a while.”
He also said he wasn’t completely himself during his 12-save shutout at Edmonton Feb. 13--his last game--but felt compelled to battle his baffling symptoms.
“At some point I wasn’t even sure what’s just imaginary and what’s actually there,” he said. “I just wanted to be back. I was definitely hoping to be able to play through it but it’s not like something else where if it hurts you can still play through it and it gets better. It kind of went the opposite way and I felt worse after the game.”
Emery, who underwent hip surgery last spring, was 2-1-0 in three games with Syracuse, compiling a 2.62 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. He won a shootout Tuesday against Charlotte, making 34 saves before stopping three shootout attempts.
A few more notes: Center Saku Koivu (sore groin) will be a game-time decision. Coach Randy Carlyle said center Ryan Getzlaf plans to be at the game although Getzlaf's wife, Paige, went into labor late Tuesday.
More soon at www.latimes.com/sports
Photo: Jonas Hiller. Credit: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images