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In midst of slow stretch, Ducks focused on Hurricanes

by Abbey Mastracco

HURRICANES (10-14-4) at DUCKS (11-12-5)


ANAHEIM -- Just as the Anaheim Ducks finally managed to string together consecutive wins, they hit a strange and slow point in their schedule. It's been five days since the Ducks played and with only one game in nine days, Anaheim is trying to figure out how to keep the momentum going Friday against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.

"If we focus on the fact that we do only have one in nine, it makes it pretty important tonight," Ducks center Shawn Horcoff said. "We really need to come out hard tonight. The two points is important because the teams that are close to us or just ahead of us or even behind us are all going to be playing more games. We come out of this one-game-in-nine-days break, we could find ourselves a little bit behind the 8-ball."

The team holiday party might have been the only rest and relaxation the Ducks got during the break. Anaheim used the time off to focus on system work and conditioning by holding intense, training camp-style practices.

"For us, I think that practice couldn't have come at a better time," Horcoff said. "We're playing some really good hockey and that just gives us a chance to reinforce some of the good things that we're doing."

Goalie John Gibson will start for Anaheim for the seventh straight game. The rookie has allowed three goals in the past four games and leads all goaltenders who have played at least five games with a 1.47 goals-against average.

Frederik Andersen, who hasn't played in eight games, will back up Gibson again. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Andersen won't have to wait long to start again, as he anticipates using him on the upcoming four-game road trip. Andersen said the flu he was hit with was worse than anyone initially let on, but he's now ready and anxious to play.

"I was so far down and didn't have any energy," Andersen said. "It was five days without eating. I couldn't drink because my throat was pretty sore. It was tough to swallow fluids, so I had to get some IVs put in me."

The Hurricanes have been scoring goals in bunches as of late, especially with the man-advantage, thanks in large part to defenseman Justin Faulk, who leads the NHL with 11 power-play goals.

"The puck comes off his stick different," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "There's probably three guys in the League where it sounds different and comes off different, and he's one of those three."

With the offensive clicking, Carolina is now trying to find the balance between offensive- and defensive-zone play.

"You have to find it," Hurricanes center Eric Staal said. "It's making sure that you're still making good decisions with the puck at the blue line and when you get that chance, making sure you're bearing down on it."

Here are the projected lineups


Kris Versteeg - Eric Staal - Elias Lindholm

Joakim Nordstrom - Jordan Staal - Andrej Nestrasil

Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Phillip Di Giuseppe

Brad Malone - Jay McClement - Riley Nash

Ron Hainsey - Justin Faulk

John-Michael Liles - Brett Pesce

Noah Hanifin - Jaccob Slavin

Cam Ward

Eddie Lack

Injured: James Wisniewski (knee), Nathan Gerbe (lower-body)

Scratched: Chris Terry, Michal Jordan


Rickard Rakell - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Mike Santorelli - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg

Carl Hagelin - Shawn Horcoff - Andrew Cogliano

Patrick Maroon - Nate Thompson - Chris Stewart

Hampus Lindholm - Kevin Bieksa

Cam Fowler - Josh Manson

Sami Vatanen - Clayton Stoner

John Gibson

Frederik Andersen

Injured: Jiri Sekac (ankle), Simon Despres (concussion symptoms)

Scratched: Anton Khudobin, Korbinian Holzer

Status report: Anaheim reassigned left wing Nick Ritchie to San Diego of the American Hockey League on Thursday. Santorelli is expected to take his place on the second line. Maroon is expected to be back in the Ducks lineup after being scratched for the past three games.

Who's hot: The Carolina offense has scored 13 goals in the past three games. Faulk has scored in each of the past two games. Versteeg has 10 points in 17 games against Anaheim. … Hagelin leads all active Ducks in scoring against the Hurricanes with five goals and 15 points. Perry is right behind him with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists). Stewart has two goals and an assist in the past five games.

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