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Bieksa could return on defense for Ducks in Game 2

Manson misses practice after leaving Game 1 loss to Predators

by Abbey Mastracco / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- Defenseman Josh Manson did not skate at the Anaheim Ducks' optional practice Saturday, but defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Korbinian Holzer did.

Manson took a hit from Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg in the final seconds of the first period in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round on Friday. Forsberg was not penalized and scored the winning goal in Nashville's 3-2 victory.

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau didn't have an update on Manson after practice, saying only that he had a "head and upper-body injury" but would not know a timetable for a return until Sunday morning. Game 2 is Sunday at Homda Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, FS-TN, FW).

Bieksa missed Anaheim's last nine regular-season games and 11 of the final 15 with an upper-body injury. But he has been skating and participating fully in practices this week. The 34-year-old practiced Saturday and came off the ice with the starters, but he did the same thing after the morning skate Friday and didn't play.

"He's eligible to play. It's possible for him to play," Boudreau said. "If Manson doesn't play, we've got a choice of him or two other guys."

The other options are Holzer and Clayton Stoner, but their health has been in question. Stoner has been battling a hop problem all season and saw doctors on Monday and Tuesday. The extent of Holzer's injury isn't known, but general manager Bob Murray did say Tuesday that it wasn't serious.

Should Bieksa return for Game 2, Anaheim's blue line will get an experienced postseason player, a solid penalty-killer and a physical presence for a game when the Ducks want to raise the level of physicality.

"He's been through the wars," Boudreau said. "He's been to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. His experience, if anything, would indicate that he'd be pretty good."

Bieksa's experience figures to be an asset; Anaheim played six defensemen age 24 or under in Game 1.

"It would be huge, adding a guy like that at this time in the playoffs," 20-year-old defenseman Shea Theodore said. "He's got a lot of good experience, and I feel like everyone on the back end can learn from a guy like that."

All signs point to Bieksa being ready to play, but he said what he's been saying for the past week: He'll play when he's ready. But he wants to play.

"If I play [Sunday], then I'm ready," Bieksa said. "It's hard to sit and watch a regular-season game, so obviously in the playoffs it's really hard. But that's a part of the playoffs. Staying healthy is key, and guys who go down need to have guys that step up and not miss a beat. That's why guys skate hard every day, the guys that aren't playing, so they're ready when they're called on. I still think we're a deep team."

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