The Anaheim Ducks may be one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, but Viktor Fasth's emergence is much more stunning.
A road win over the Detroit Red Wings may be even more extraordinary.
Fasth may get a chance at becoming the first goaltender to win his first seven starts in over seven years Friday night as the Ducks seek a rare road win against the Red Wings.
Anaheim (9-2-1) fell well short of the playoffs last season, finishing 15 points back of the cutoff in the Western Conference. The Ducks, however, look more like a shoe-in early this season, leading the Pacific Division while sitting second in the conference.
Much of that success can be traced to Fasth, who is 6-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and one shutout in seven games - six starts. That's been vital since regular starter Jonas Hiller is trying to come back from a lower-body injury.
Hiller, though, has also been ineffective, going 3-2-1 with a 3.69 GAA.
Fasth, a 30-year-old veteran from Sweden, is looking to become the first goaltender to win his first seven career starts since Ray Emery did it with Ottawa from March. 21, 2003-Nov. 19, 2005.
"You always try to work hard to get to play," Fasth said. "I got to work hard every day to get my chances and to play when the coach wants me to play and try to help out the team as much as I can."
He certainly did that again Tuesday, making 28 saves before adding two more in the shootout to help the Ducks to a 3-2 win at NHL-leading Chicago.
"He looked excellent," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Fasth on the team's official website. "What I liked about him is that in traffic he found the puck every time. He didn't seem to be in a panic to find it. He was relaxed, and there and square. He looked like a goaltender to me."
Babcock is also likely wary of Teemu Selanne, who has six goals and five assists in his last 12 meetings with Detroit (7-4-2). The future Hall of Famer leads the team with 10 assists and 14 points, getting nine while sparking the Ducks to a 5-1-1 road record.
They're 3-1-0 on this season-high six-game road trip, which concludes in Nashville on Saturday.
Anaheim, though, has lost 30 of 36 regular-season visits to Joe Louis Arena, tying three times. The team has also won just once in over 10 years there (1-13-4), and that victory came on Feb. 10, 2008. They've dropped eight in a row since.
Jimmy Howard is expected to be in net looking to continue his own dominance of the Ducks. He's 7-2-1 with a 2.00 GAA and three shutouts in 10 career meetings, winning all five home matchups while blanking them twice.
Howard is 2-0-1 with a 2.32 GAA in his last three starts after allowing eight total goals in back-to-back losses.
He stopped 21 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, ending Detroit's season-best three-game win streak.
Pavel Datsyuk, who scored for the third straight game, has nine goals and nine assists in 18 career regular-season home games versus Anaheim.
Henrik Zetterberg has 12 goals and 31 points in his last 19 home games - including playoffs - against the Ducks. He has five goals and 10 assists in eight home contests this season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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