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At the Rink: Ducks at Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- When the Anaheim Ducks face the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; PRIME, FS-SD, MSG-B, BELL TV), it will be their second game since Dec. 6. With the time off, it's given the Ducks a chance to work on their NHL-worst offense.

The Ducks have scored 55 goals this season and have averaged 1.89 goals per-game.

"It's tough, but it's what we're dealt with," Ducks forward Corey Perry said. "You have to go out and you have to try to win games 1-0, 2-1. We're not a high-scoring team right now. We're not getting bounces or whatever it is, and you have to go out and create those opportunities."

The Ducks have won two of the past four games in December, but have scored five goals in those games. Perry is the Ducks' leader in goals with 10, forward Rickard Rakell has six and forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Sami Vatanen each have five. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has one goal.

"You can see out there there's a lot of energy, a lot of jump, a lot of laughter in the room," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's not like we're walking around with a stern look on our face holding sticks so tight, but you can see during the course of the game we're trying to be too cute with pucks instead of simplifying the game and shooting the puck at the net and if we do that, hopefully we'll get a goal. But I've got to believe it's got to break because there's guys that haven't scored here that are used to scoring."

Ducks forward Jiri Sekac returns to the lineup after he missed the past 19 games with a right-ankle sprain. It'll be his first game since Nov. 1.

"I'd like to see [Sekac] skate and do his job defensively," Boudreau said. "The offense will come. If we have to win games 1-0, we want to make sure we're doing a great job defensively and take care of our own zone and the neutral zone and having the good third man high and all of those things that you do when you're playing good defensive hockey and then eke a couple of goals out and win the game."

Goalie John Gibson will start for Anaheim. In his previous start on Dec. 11 he allowed three goals on 17 shots against in a 5-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Gibson was pulled after two periods in favor of Frederik Andersen. In eight games this season, seven of which were starts, Gibson is 4-3-1 with a .934 save percentage.

As the Ducks come into the game rested, the Sabres are playing their fourth game in six days and are aware they'll have to be ready despite the Ducks' offensive struggles.

"You look at that lineup and it looks like a team that you're going to try and measure yourself against," Sabres defenseman Cody Franson said. "They've got the depth, they've got the talent, they've got every piece of the puzzle, and it's not going to be an easy win no matter how they're doing. We're going to have to work for every inch tonight and we know that."

The Sabres will be without forward Marcus Foligno for the second straight game. Foligno missed the Sabres' 2-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday with an upper-body injury and will again be replaced in the lineup by Cal O'Reilly.

Goalie Chad Johnson will start.

Here are the projected lineups:


Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Jiri SekacRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Carl HagelinShawn HorcoffAndrew Cogliano

Patrick MaroonMike SantorelliChris Stewart

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Clayton StonerSami Vatanen

John Gibson

Frederik Andersen

Injured: Simon Despres (concussion)

Scratched: Korbinian Holzer

Suspended: Nate Thompson


Jamie McGinnRyan O'ReillySam Reinhart

Matt MoulsonJack EichelEvander Kane

Zemgus GirgensonsJohan LarssonBrian Gionta

David LegwandCal O'ReillyNicolas Deslauriers

Josh GorgesRasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabeZach Bogosian

Mike WeberCody Franson

Chad Johnson

Linus Ullmark

Injured: Marcus Foligno (upper body), Tyler Ennis (upper body), Mark Pysyk (lower body), Robin Lehner (ankle), Cody McCormick (blood clot)

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo

Status update: Bylsma said Ennis is making progress on his injury and Ennis said on Wednesday he's aiming to play against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

Who's hot: Vatanen has an assist in each of the past two games. … Ryan O'Reilly has 11 points in the past nine games. Ristolainen has five points in the past four games.

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