PITTSBURGH -- Defenseman Cam Fowler participated in the Anaheim Ducks' morning skate Thursday prior to their season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
Fowler, who returned to skating Monday after sustaining a lower-body injury during practice last week, had been listed as day-to-day prior to Thursday. He was the first Anaheim player on the ice Thursday morning and could return to the Ducks' top defensive pairing alongside Ben Lovejoy to start the season.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Fowler is cleared to play and will leave it to him to decide if he is ready. Fowler said he felt good during the skate, but that he is a game-time decision.
"You want to be at 100 percent and you don't want to do any harm to yourself or to the team either," Fowler said. "You have to be at full capacity when you play these games. So, we're going to make sure everything falls into place and we'll see how things go [Thursday]."
Boudreau did not name a starting goaltender, but John Gibson was the first one off the ice at the skate. Gibson, 21, is a Pittsburgh native and he's expected to compete with Frederik Andersen for playing time this season.
Andersen made the All-Rookie team in 2013-14, but Gibson is an elite prospect (No. 2 on NHL.com's list for the 2014-15 season) and briefly became the go-to guy during Anaheim's Western Conference Second Round series against the Los Angeles Kings. Gibson has played in three regular-season games and four Stanley Cup Playoffs games.
Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin will also most likely play Thursday.
Malkin, who was sidelined throughout most of training camp because of an undisclosed injury, said Wednesday there was a 99 percent chance he would play in Pittsburgh's first game. He was one of the first players on the ice Thursday.
Pittsburgh did not perform line rushes during its first morning skate under coach Mike Johnston, who said they might not be a common practice during skates, but Malkin did join forwards Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz and defenseman Kris Letang on its top power-play unit.
Malkin began skating on his own Oct. 3 and returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since his injury. He skated to the left of Crosby with Kunitz to the right, then practiced for the second consecutive day Wednesday, skating on Brandon Sutter's right wing with Pascal Dupuis to the left.
"Hopefully the puck's going to be on [Malkin's] stick more than mine," Dupuis said. "He's the guy that we want to get the puck to. He's a shooter … We want him to shoot the puck as well. He can't hesitate out there, just got to put it on net and we'll go for rebounds."
Dupuis, Sutter and Malkin are expected to form the Penguins' second line Thursday.
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis – Brandon Sutter – Evgeni Malkin
Nick Spaling – Marcel Goc – Blake Comeau
Steve Downie – Zach Sill – Craig Adams
Christian Ehrhoff – Kris Letang
Olli Maatta – Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi – Simon Despres
Injured: Beau Bennett (lower body), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body)
Scratched: Taylor Chorney, Andrew Ebbett
Patrick Maroon – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Emerson Etem – Rickard Rakell – Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey – Nate Thompson – Tim Jackman
Cam Fowler – Ben Lovejoy
Francois Beauchemin – Hampus Lindholm
Clayton Stoner – Sami Vatanen
Injured: Dany Heatley (groin), Kyle Palmieri (ankle)
Scratched: William Karlsson, Bryan Allen, Mark Fistric
Status report: With Bortuzzo (lower body) out of the lineup, Despres is expected to skate alongside Scuderi on Thursday. Maatta, who underwent shoulder surgery in May, most likely will join Martin … Johnston said Pittsburgh will focus on boxing out around the crease to not allow the Ducks' Getzlaf and Perry to gain position … Boudreau did not announce a starting goaltender for Thursday but Gibson, a Pittsburgh native, was the first Ducks goalie off the ice.