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Pregame: Vatanen Returns to the Lineup vs. Flyers

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara / AnaheimDucks.com

A full day off yesterday had the Ducks taking part in a rare 9:30 a.m. skate this morning leading up to tonight's home tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Ducks don't normally hold mandatory skates for Sunday home games that start at 5 p.m., but everyone was in attendance today, including defenseman Sami Vatanen.

He'll draw back into the lineup tonight after missing the past two games due to illness. The 25-year-old has two goals and 15 points in 35 games this season, including four points (1g/3a) in his past six games. "I didn't move much," he said, on his recent illness. "I was in my house hanging out there. It got a little boring. I'm excited to be back. I'm ready to play."

It remains to be seen if head coach Randy Carlyle opts to roll seven defensemen again tonight. Carlyle went with seven defensemen and 11 forwards in the club's 3-2 overtime loss two nights ago in Vancouver. If he goes that route again, he says he can throw a defenseman at either wing in a pinch.

If Carlyle goes with 12 forwards and six defensemen, the healthy scratch on the backend could either be Korbinian Holzer or rookie Brandon Montour.

John Gibson will make this fifth consecutive start tonight for Anaheim, his third in the past four days. Gibson enters tonight's game with a 12-9-7 record, 2.58 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 28 games.

As for the Flyers, they opted for an optional skate this morning but it appears rookie goaltender Anthony Stolarz is getting the start. The 22-year-old stopped 21-of-22 shots in relief of Steve Mason in Philadelphia's 2-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center two nights ago and now has a 1.79 GAA and .938 SV% in four games since being recalled from the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Mason left the game due to a hand injury in the first period, but practiced yesterday.

The Flyers have fell on hard times since their 10-game winning streak ended last month. Since then, the Flyers have dropped five of their past six games (1-4-1) and have been outscored 18-7 during that span (shootout goals excluded). Tonight's contest concludes a four-game stretch away from Wells Fargo Center.

"They're a proud group," said Carlyle. "They're coming in with a mandate to salvage something from the road trip. They were in St. Louis, up [3-2] in the third period, and St. Louis came back to beat them 6-3. They went into San Jose and lost 2-0. They're going to challenge their group to be more combative and competitive."

Rookie left wing Travis Konecny is expected to return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the game against the Sharks. The former first-round pick of the 2015 NHL Draft had four points (all assists) in his first three career NHL games this season, but only has three points in his past eight games and hasn't scored since November 11 - a stretch of 22 games.

Theodore Reassigned
Earlier today the Ducks reassigned defenseman Shea Theodore to the San Diego Gulls. The 21-year-old earned six points (1g/5a) in 21 games with Anaheim this season, his lone goal coming on the power play. Carlyle says the decision to send him to the Gulls was partly due to the club getting fully healthy on the blueline.

"We're only going to carry one extra defenseman," Carlyle said. "[Shea] played well in the last couple of games, specifically last game, which is difficult for a young player to understand. I don't think he's been playing the game he's capable of playing. We know he'll be back. It's not a question of if, it's when."

Since making his NHL debut last season, Theodore has earned 14 points (4g/10a) in 40 career NHL games.

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

Fowler-Vatanen
Lindholm-Manson
Holzer-Bieksa

Gibson
Bernier

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