DUCKS (29-19-8) at CANUCKS (22-22-12)
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VANCOUVER - Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson will return against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Thursday after missing two games with an upper body injury sustained during a collision in his crease.
Gibson was hurt during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 13, and Frederik Andersen finished the game and played each of the next two. Andersen had appeared in seven straight games including the past five on the Ducks' current season-long seven-game road trip (4-1-1), and coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to get Gibson in when he was ready.
"It gives Freddie a rest, he's played a lot of hockey lately," Boudreau said. "It again gives us back the two goalies we know that have carried us to this point so far and I think that will give us a little more confidence."
Andersen is 9-0-1 in his past 10 decisions after a slow start that mirrored the Ducks early struggles. Overall, the two goalies have similar numbers: Andersen is 14-8-6, Gibson is 12-8-2 and they have identical .917 save percentages.
Each goalie has benefitted from a renewed focus on defense that has been a big part of the Ducks turnaround from last in the NHL to three points behind the Los Angeles Kings for top spot in the Pacific Division. Anaheim was 12-15-6 at the Christmas break, but have gone 17-4-2 since.
"We found our identity," center Ryan Kesler said. "I think we struggled for the first bit because we're a different team than they had in years past, we're more of a defense first and generate chances off that and it's worked."
The Canucks will change their forward lines after coming out flat and starting slow in consecutive losses. Vancouver will dress a heavier lineup hoping that bigger bodies can establish energy early on home ice, where the Canucks have lost five straight games.
"Just focusing on the first 10 minutes is going to be huge," said rookie Jake Virtanen, who will drop from the second to fourth line. "We have guys that can play a good, heavy game. As a fourth line we have to be able to get in and make energy for the guys, get in on the forecheck and be heavy on their D and be a physical line out there."
Emerson Etem, who was traded by Anaheim to the New York Rangers in the summer and then acquired by the Canucks in January, returns after being a healthy scratch against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
"It's simple, keep moving my feet and finish every check," Etem said.
Here are the projected lineups:
David Perron - Ryan Getzlaf - Mike Santorelli
Nick Ritchie - Rickard Rakell - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
Patrick Maroon - Nate Thompson - Ryan Garbutt
Cam Fowler - Kevin Bieksa
Hampus Lindholm - Josh Manson
Simon Despres - Sami Vatanen
Injured: Chris Stewart (jaw), Clayton Stoner (hip)
Scratched: Harry Zolnierczyk
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Radim Vrbata
Alexandre Burrows - Linden Vey - Emerson Etem
Derek Dorsett - Adam Cracknell - Jake Virtanen
Ben Hutton - Christopher Tanev
Dan Hamhuis - Luca Sbisa
Matt Bartkowski - Alex Biega
Injured: Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alexander Edler (fractured leg)
Scratched: Jared McCann, Yannick Weber, Alex Friesen
Status Report: With Gibson returning, the Ducks sent Anton Khudobin to San Diego of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. Anaheim also sent defenseman Korbinian Holzer to San Diego on a conditioning assignment.
Who's Hot: Getzlaf has two goals and eight assists during a six-game point streak that has included being paired with Perron, who has five goals and 12 points in 13 games since coming to the Ducks in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins.