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Pregame Musings: Bernier Likely to Get the Start

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

Though the Ducks held an optional pregame skate earlier today inside the building formerly known as CONSOL Energy Center (it's now called PPG Paints Arena), it appears we'll see Jonathan Bernier between the pipes against the Penguins.

Bernier was the first goaltender to leave the ice this morning, which is usually a strong indication of who gets the start. 

After the skate, head coach Randy Carlyle said he takes everything into consideration when it comes to his starter, including the 12 goals given up by Pittsburgh native John Gibson in his previous two starts combined (six in each game) at PPG Paints Arena.

"When I go to goaltenders, I don't really like to talk about who I'm playing or who I'm not playing," said Carlyle. "I take into consideration if it's his hometown. That usually has a bearing on it. His record against the Penguins in this building has a bearing on it, and where we are as a team and how his last start was. All those things are factors."

On the blueline, Korbinian Holzer will draw into the lineup, replacing Simon Despres, who remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury, according to Carlyle.

Carlyle went on to say he doesn't expect to shuffle his d-pairings around with Despres' absence, but one thing he wants to stay on top of is sheltering rookie defenseman Jacob Larsson.

"We don't want to put Larsson in over his head," said Carlyle. "We want to protect him. I don't think it's fair to put a 19-year-old into a lot of situations early in his NHL career with this being only his second game." Larsson skated with veteran Kevin Bieksa in Dallas and finished with 15:58 TOI, lowest among team defensemen.

Emerson Etem is in Pittsburgh, but his equipment isn't. The likelihood of him playing tonight is slim to none, according to reports from the skate, but the Long Beach native went through another day of off-ice workouts with his new (old) club. The Ducks, of course, play tomorrow evening against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center, so we'll see if his equipment makes it in time.

Etem, of course, was originally selected by Anaheim in the first round (29th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft, and found some success with the club. But the 24-year-old was dealt to the New York Rangers along with a second-round draft pick on June 27, 2015 in exchange for Carl Hagelin and two draft picks in the 2015 NHL Draft. He only played 19 games with the Rangers before being dealt to the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 8, 2016 in exchange for Nicklas Jensen and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He signed a one-year extension with the Canucks this past June, but didn't make the opening night roster, and was ultimately placed on waivers.

The Ducks put in a waiver claim and got him back.

"It's definitely exciting," Etem said. "I've had success in the organization. Not as much as I'd like, so my goal is to produce. Make sure I'm moving my feet, playing good defensively, finishing my checks and being a reliable player for this team. When the Ducks picked me up, what an opportunity."

We'll have more on Etem later today.

The Penguins will again be without the services of Sidney Crosby, who continues to recover from a concussion. It was revealed on Monday that Crosby suffered the concussion during practice on Friday, October 7, but the 29-year-old has been skating on his own since Wednesday.

He took part in a solo skate earlier this morning, which Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby prefers. "He gets more out of those types of workouts as opposed to joining the group and being in non-contact situations where he's on the sidelines," Sullivan said. "He tends to get better workouts when we create those types of environments where he can work on his skills and we can control his heart rate. He had a good workout this morning. We'll see how it goes. Everything to this point has been encouraging. We'll take it each day as it comes."

Tonight will be a milestone evening for former Duck forward Chris Kunitz. He'll skate in his 500th NHL game as a Penguin in a career that has spanned 13 seasons. The 37-year-old was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Anaheim on April 1, 2003, and went on to record 192 points (81g/111a) and 297 penalty minutes in 313 games with Anaheim, including 16 points (4g/12a) in 35 Stanley Cup Playoff contests. Kunitz is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, but his first came with the Ducks in 2007.

As part of the Penguins' 50th season celebration, the club will pay tribute to their "Early Years" in a ceremony before tonight's game. Twenty-seven alums from the first decade of Penguins hockey will be honored, including the organization's first owner and nine players from its inaugural 1967-68 team.

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