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Andersen, Gibson push for playoff call in Ducks net

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- The competition is intense, to hear Frederik Andersen tell it. There's not much separation between him and teammate John Gibson, and it often gets tight.

The thing is, Andersen isn't talking about their dual goaltending dynamic for the Anaheim Ducks but their latest head-to-head showdown in an NBA video game.

"It was actually a good series," Andersen said. "We had a best-of-7 series. I've got to win the Game 7 next time."

Frederik Andersen and John Gibson are friends, teammates and young goalies that have propelled Anaheim to the best record in the NHL going into Friday. (Photo: Debora Robinson/NHLI)

Andersen and Gibson are friends, teammates and young goalies who have propelled Anaheim to the best record in the NHL going into Friday against the Colorado Avalanche at Honda Center (10 p.m. ET; SN1, ALT, PRIME). The competition between them for the No. 1 job is more of a media and fan curiosity, but there's no denying each is making it a tough decision for coach Bruce Boudreau with the Stanley Cup Playoffs ahead.

"I think they both want the starting role," Boudreau said. "We had a tough game in New York and Columbus [last month] and when [Andersen] played two really good games, it was like [Gibson] said, 'Oh, yeah? OK,' and he came in and played great. I think they both would like to have it.

"If we go far they're both going to play, and if we don't go far, they're both going to play, because if we're losing, we're going to make switches. That's the way I think of it right now. We're not married to thinking one is better than the other. When they're on top of their game, they're as good as there is."

Andersen, 25, is the incumbent starter with 34 wins this season, two shy of Jean-Sebastien Giguere's Ducks single-season record. On Wednesday, Andersen became the second-fastest goalie to 54 NHL wins, getting there in 75 decisions.

Gibson, 21, made nine starts in March and was 6-3-0 with a .918 save percentage. He has 10 wins in his past 13 decisions and is 13-7-0 with a 2.58 goals-against average.

Andersen and Gibson downplay the competition between them, but Andersen doesn't hide that he wants to be the guy.

"Personally I like to start every night," Andersen said. "At this point it's not really anything I've got to worry about. I've just got to worry about playing when I'm in there. … Right now we're a team that pushes to be the best we can be, and every single night we've got to have the best lineup, and no matter who it is, whoever's called upon has to be ready. That's how championships are won, with a deep roster."

Andersen is prideful after he emerged last season, only to have his playoffs cut short by injury. He is still seen as Anaheim's starter for Game 1 of the playoffs, although Boudreau won't hesitate to change it up, much like he did last season with Andersen, Gibson and Jonas Hiller.

"It's evident to me that, in a seven-game series, if one is struggling you certainly have no qualms about putting the other guy in," Boudreau said.

Gibson is a goalie of few words and a lot of swagger. He was forgotten about at the beginning of the season because of a groin injury that kept him out six weeks, but he reaffirmed the hype surrounding him after he was recalled from the American Hockey League in February.

This is the first time he's been able to string together starts for an extended period of time in the NHL, an important step in his development.

"You get more comfortable the more you play, and [with] different buildings, different teams," Gibson said. "I think now I'm starting to get more comfortable and I'm just trying to focus on little things."

A two-goalie system is atypical, particularly in the playoffs. The Ducks have fed off the dynamic without analyzing it too much.

"I think it helps just to know that if one guy struggles one night the next guy is there to pick him up and play well," forward Andrew Cogliano said. "It helps having two guys that really could go every night. I don't know how it is for them being goalies. But we're confident in both of them. I think both have different styles, and who knows? I think there are some teams they play really well against that they can switch off. I think they've done well as a team. They're good guys and I think it's worked well for both of them."

The more traditional model is for a team to have a veteran goalie mentor a young goalie. Anaheim had Jason LaBarbera briefly play that role at the start of the season before it became clear Gibson was ready to return full-time.

Andersen doesn't really fit the mold of fresh-faced kid, given his international experience prior to the NHL, having represented Denmark in four World Championships. He said having a veteran to guide them is beneficial to a point.

"I think it can be good, but you have to be able to grow up yourself," Andersen said. "You can't just learn having a veteran that can teach you everything. You've got to take it upon yourself. It's not like I'm an 18-year-old kid right out of juniors. I have experience myself, and I try to use that as best as I can.

"Me and [Gibson] are here to work together and learn from each other like that, so it's exciting to have these experiences early in our careers together, which is pretty unique. There's not too many (teams) with two young goalies that get to play together like we do now."

Andersen remembers going through some developmental and training camps with Gibson. The two got to know each other some through their video games. It's a relationship of respect and a friendly push of each other, despite what might be perceived from the outside.

"We got along quite well," Andersen said of first meeting Gibson. "I remember right away (that) he's a good kid. There's no controversy here. I know you guys are loving that."

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