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Ducks eager to hit ice; Bonino, Fistric likely in lineup

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks are the last NHL team to return to action after the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and that makes coach Bruce Boudreau a little uneasy.

Anaheim gets back into it Friday against the St. Louis Blues in a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference. The Blues have played a game, but this will be Anaheim's first since Feb. 8.

"We're a little anxious," said Boudreau, one win shy of becoming the fastest coach to 300 wins in modern-day NHL history. "We're the only team that hasn't played a game yet. I don't know if that's good or bad … seeing a lot of teams playing their first game back. But we're certainly ready to get back into it."

The Ducks are expected to activate center Nick Bonino and defenseman Mark Fistric from injured reserve. Bonino has been out since Jan. 30 with a wrist injury. He should help Anaheim's power play, which has scored two power-play goals in its past seven games. Bonino leads Anaheim with 19 power-play points and is tied for the lead with six power-play goals.

"I think if you're going to get hurt, two games to four games before the Olympic break is the time to do it," Bonino said. "You get a little time to recharge, do some rehab and get ready to go."

Fistric has been out with a lower-body injury since Feb. 1. He has provided solid coverage and, at this point, is a better option than Luca Sbisa.

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock made one significant change, putting Alexander Steen back at top-line wing and Patrik Berglund at second-line center. Hitchcock said, "We'll experiment with two players on those lines for the next couple of games and see what we think works."

Hitchcock mentioned one area as the key against the Ducks.

"I think the neutral-zone play is going to be critical. How you manage the checking, how you manage the pressure, is going to be important to who controls the tempo," he said. "I think both teams can put a lot of heat on each other. Whichever team can get through the neutral zone and control it at a high level is probably going to be victorious."

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart

Brenden Morrow - Derek Roy - Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carlo Colaiacovo - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Dmitrij Jaskin, Ian Cole

Injured: Vladimir Sobotka (knee), Jordan Leopold (ankle)

DUCKS

Dustin Penner - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Patrick Maroon - Mathieu Perreault - Teemu Selanne

Daniel Winnik - Saku Koivu - Andrew Cogliano

Matt Beleskey - Nick Bonino - Tim Jackman

Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin

Cam Fowler - Ben Lovejoy

Bryan Allen - Mark Fistric

Jonas Hiller

Frederik Andersen

Scratched: Kyle Palmieri

Injured: Sheldon Souray (wrist)

Palmieri did not take part in some of the line rushes; it appears Boudreau wants more size with Jackman. Hiller was first off the ice.

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