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Gibson Joins Ducks for First Practice of the Playoffs

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

While half of the league was in the initial stages of the offseason, the Ducks got right back to work on Monday afternoon as they prepare for Game 1 of their first-round series with the San Jose Sharks.

It was business as usual for the Ducks, who used a stellar second-half run and a season-high season-ending five-game winning streak to propel themselves into second place in the Pacific Division. Aside from defenseman Cam Fowler, who continues to recover from a shoulder injury, it was a full practice today including goaltender John Gibson.

"It was good," Gibson said, on his first full practice in more than a week. The 24-year-old netminder suffered an upper-body injury on April 1 vs. Colorado and missed the final three games of the regular season, but skated on his own for the past few days. "Nice to be back. I feel good."

Ryan Miller rose to the occasion in Gibson's absence, going 4-0 with a shutout over the final four games of the season, including a relief appearance against the Avs. On the importance of home ice in this round, Gibson says it is an advantage they "definitely don't want to take for granted."

No Other Option
After overcoming early-season adversity and seemingly playing catch-up for the first couple of months, the Ducks stayed afloat and remained in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race once the second half began. The only problem was none of the teams they were battling against for playoff spots were dropping off until the final few weeks of the season. Carlyle said it was clear that if they didn't have the type of run they had, they might have been clearing out their lockers instead.

"If we didn't have success, we might not even be qualified for the playoffs," he said. "That was the pressure that was there. You have to play 82 games. The competition between us, LA, San Jose, Colorado and St. Louis, there was pressure for a good two months."

Bieksa Getting Closer
Carlyle said in his post-practice interview today that defenseman Kevin Bieksa could be an option for Game 1. The 36-year-old blueliner underwent surgery on his left hand on March 16 to remove scar tissue. His expected recovery timeline was 2-5 weeks. Bieksa has eight points (all assists) in 59 games this season.

More on Ducks-Sharks
This is the eighth time in NHL history that two California teams will meet in the postseason, last occurring in the 2016 playoffs when LA faced San Jose in the opening round. Anaheim has faced a California team twice, beating San Jose in the Conference Quarterfinals in 2009 and falling to LA in the 2014 Second Round.

In the 2009 series between Anaheim and San Jose, the Ducks won the series in six games. Three current Ducks and three active Sharks appeared in the series, with Ryan Getzlaf leading all Anaheim skaters in assists (6) and points (8). Corey Perry also registered four points (3g/1a) in the series while Francois Beauchemin recorded one goal. San Jose's Joe Thornton led the Sharks in assists (4) and points (5), while Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic each registered one assist in the six games.

During the 2017-18 regular season, three of the four games between the two clubs went into a shootout (Ducks went 1-1-2 overall). Rickard Rakell led all Ducks skaters with five points (2g/3a) in four games.

The Ducks enter the First Round with an all-time playoff record of 89-69 in 158 total games (51-32 at Honda Center, 38-37 on the road) and are 16-12 all-time in a playoff series. In the First Round, the Ducks are 42-31, moving on into the Second Round eight times in the club's 13 appearances.

Video: Ducks return from an off day with John Gibson in net

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