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Ducks Ready for Physical Battle Tonight vs. Lightning

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara / AnaheimDucks.com

Anaheim's three-game homestand continues as it hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning at Honda Center later this evening. A day off yesterday meant a mandatory pregame skate this morning, and among those on the ice was injured center Nate Thompson, who continues to recover from an Achilles injury suffered during offseason training in June.

Thompson won't play for the next little while, but it was an encouraging sight nonetheless. At least to the eye, the 32-year-old didn't seem hindered from the subsequent surgery done on his torn Achilles.

The Ducks didn't take part in line rushes, but it's safe to say the lineup we saw two nights ago against the St. Louis Blues carries over into this one tonight. Shea Theodore and Stefan Noesen were reassigned to San Diego yesterday and recalled earlier today, but it doesn't appear they'll play tonight.

Coming off the ice first this morning was John Gibson, who looks set on making his second consecutive start and 12th in the last 13 games. Gibson leads NHL goaltenders in goals-against average (1.67) and save percentage (.946), co-leads in wins (6) and ranks tied for second in shutouts (2) since Christmas (minimum five starts). Overall this season, Gibson is tied for fifth in shutouts (3). Gibson made a career-high 10 starts from December 22-January 12, which also matched his career best in consecutive appearances (last: Feb. 10-March 1, 2015).

Tonight the Ducks will take on a Lightning team that has made a commitment to playing a physical brand of hockey, and it was on full display yesterday in its 2-1 victory over the LA Kings at STAPLES Center. Tampa Bay dished out 41 hits - the seventh-most in team history - with Brian Boyle, Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov leading the way with five hits apiece.

"Much different hockey club than what we've seen before," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle, on the Lightning. "Much grittier effort. They're going to try to duplicate that tonight."

Tonight marks stop No. 2 on Tampa Bay's six-game road trip, but it could be another game without standout defenseman Victor Hedman. The 6-foot-6, 223-pound d-man missed his first game of the season yesterday because he was sick, and earlier today the club recalled defenseman Jake Dotchin from Syracuse of the American Hockey League, perhaps as insurance. Hedman passed Dan Boyle for most all-time assists for Lightning defensemen with career helper No. 188 on November 10 vs. the New York Islanders, and became the club's all-time leading scorer for defensemen with an assist seven days later in Edmonton.

Also missing in action are forwards J.T. Brown (upper body), Ryan Callahan (lower body), Brayden Point (upper body) and Steven Stamkos (lateral meniscus tear in right knee). Callahan's injury was announced two days ago, and he's expected to miss approximately four weeks, while Stamkos is still approximately two months away from returning.

"They've been challenged with some injuries," said Carlyle. "They're looking at this road trip as a springboard for the rest of the season."

Video: The Ducks preview their matchup with the Lightning

Potential Line Combinations
Anaheim

Rakell-Getzlaf-Perry
Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg
Ritchie-Vermette-Kase
Cramarossa-Shaw-Boll

Fowler-Vatanen
Lindholm-Manson
Holzer-Bieksa

Gibson
Bernier

Tampa Bay
Palat-Namestnikov-Kucherov
Killorn-Johnson-Condra
Boyle-Filppula-Drouin
Bournival-Paquette-Dumont

Nesterov-Stralman
Garrison-Sustr
Coburn-Witkowski

Bishop
Vasilevskiy

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