Viktor Fasth may not be considered a rookie by the NHL, but the Anaheim Ducks think he's much more valuable to them.
The Nashville Predators are certainly aware of that.
Fasth should be back in net looking to continue his dazzling start to his NHL career Saturday night, when he attempts to beat the Predators again.
Fasth is 7-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and one shutout in eight games. He's won his first seven starts, becoming the first goaltender to accomplish such a streak since Ray Emery had eight in a row with Ottawa from March 21, 2003-Nov. 29, 2005.
Despite that spectacular start, Fasth, 30, isn't eligible for the Calder Trophy since he's over 25 years old.
Still, he's a major reason the Ducks (10-2-1) are atop the Pacific Division with 21 points and trail only Chicago (25) in the Western Conference.
"He's been our most valuable player," left wing Bobby Ryan said. "He has come in and given us a chance to win every game. He's a true professional."
With Jonas Hiller (lower-body injury) still out, Fasth was superb again Friday, making 26 saves in a 5-2 win at Detroit as Anaheim improved to 4-1-0 on this season-high six-game road trip.
Fasth will likely get a chance to cap the trip with another victory over the Predators (7-3-4). He beat them in his NHL debut on Jan. 26, stopping 19 shots and turning aside all three shootout attempts in a 3-2 home victory that ended the Ducks' six-game losing streak in the series.
He'll now try to help Anaheim halt a four-game slide at Nashville, but continued production from Ryan and the offense would also help.
The Ducks have scored 14 goals in three games, and Ryan has three of them while setting up two others. He also found the net for the first time in 12 meetings with Nashville last month.
"We've played that consistent game throughout the road trip," Ryan told the league's official website. "We've played that consistent brand of hockey, and I think that led to where we are at the end of the road trip."
Andrew Cogliano has scored his first four goals of the season over the past three games, and he netted two versus the Red Wings.
While the Predators attempt to solve Fasth, counterpart Pekka Rinne hopes to continue his own impressive play.
Rinne made 19 saves in a 3-0 victory over Phoenix on Thursday, two days after he stopped 25 shots in a 1-0 overtime win against San Jose. He's 6-1-0 with a 0.83 GAA and three shutouts - all three coming in the last four games - after losing his first five games of the season (0-2-3) with a 2.67 GAA.
"Especially the last two games, I thought the first periods, he allowed us to win the games," coach Barry Trotz said. "Anytime that you are going to have impact in a game, those top players, those great players in the league have impact when you are not stabilized."
Rinne seemed to do that opposite Fasth last month, stopping all seven shots in the opening period before Corey Perry beat him with the decisive shootout attempt.
He's 7-0-1 with a 1.54 GAA and two shutouts in his last eight starts against the Ducks.
Unlike Fasth, Rinne doesn't get a great deal of offensive support. Nashville managed a league-low 1.9 goals per game, and has scored more than three only once.
Colin Wilson leads the Preds with four goals, and they've all come in six home games. The center has scored only once in nine meetings with Anaheim and did not have a shot in the previous meeting.
The Associated Press News Service
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