Familiar face, different place.
When the Ducks hit the ice later tonight at Pepsi Center, they will see former teammate Jonathan Bernier staffing the crease at the Avs end of the rink. Bernier is now a member of the Colorado Avalanche after he signed a one-year contract on July 1.
Bernier had a strong 2016-17 campaign - his lone season in Anaheim - posting a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He went 12-1-2 over his final 15 starts with the Ducks, with his 12 wins leading all NHL goaltenders from March 1 until the end of the season. But things went south in the postseason, specifically Game 6 of the Western Conference Final in Nashville when Bernier made his first career postseason start. He gave up four goals on just 16 shots in a 6-3 loss which propelled the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final.
This is a new season, and for him a new chance to help push an Avs team that can't get much lower than they were last season when they finished with a league-worst 48 points.
"I'm sure Bernie is going to be ready," said Ducks center Antoine Vermette. "He's a competitive guy. One thing I appreciate about Jonathan, the way he plays, he's not a big guy, but he's a smart goalie. He reads the play pretty well and gets in position when he's on his game. It's impressive for a smaller goaltender."
Adds right wing Logan Shaw, "We know what kind of goalie he is, so that's definitely going to help. He's a competitor. He's going to work hard and show what he can do."
John Gibson will likely make his fifth consecutive start for the Ducks. Gibson enters tonight's game with a 2-1-1 record, 2.78 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. He turned aside 39 of 41 shots in his most recent outing, a 3-2 Ducks victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday.
A point of emphasis for the Ducks will be a good start, so keep an eye on their performance out of the gate. Wednesday's game - at least on paper - was a good start, as the Ducks scored just 37 seconds into the game, but they spent the remainder of the opening frame chasing the Islanders.
Head coach Randy Carlyle had this to say after the game against the Islanders. "We're going to have to find another formula as far trying to stimulate our group from the start of the game. We scored our goal, killed a penalty and then we go flat. We relied on our goaltender to bail us out. Your goaltender can only do that so many times. That has to change with our group."
Shaw says he and his teammates will look to set the tone early on tonight. "The first 10 minutes are going to be critical," he said. "Just show them we're going to play hard, play fast and play big."
According to Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register, Ducks left wing Nick Ritchie (lower-body injury) took part in the morning skate and plans to take pregame warmups later tonight. Ritchie has not played since the season opener eight days ago. If he plays, line combos will surely be changed.
With rookie Tyson Jost out of the Avs lineup with a knee injury, Long Beach, California native Matt Nieto will draw in. Originally a San Jose draft pick, the 24-year-old left wing has appeared in 265 career NHL games with the Sharks and Avalanche, recording 35 goals and 81 points.
Projected Line Combinations