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Injury-plagued Ducks set to face Sharks for first

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The Anaheim Ducks' depth will be tested Thursday at SAP Center when they face the San Jose Sharks with first place in the Pacific Division on the line.

Center Nick Bonino (bruised foot) and left wing Matt Beleskey (illness) will miss the game. The Ducks recalled left wing Emerson Etem and center Rickard Rakell from the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League, and they're expected to be on the fourth line.

The Ducks are also without defenseman Cam Fowler, who will miss his third straight game and is expected to be sidelined for 3-5 weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said another Anaheim player is questionable for the game but declined to provide his name.

Etem and Rakell were on the ice for the morning skate.

"I'm just happy to be here and be back with the guys," said Etem, a first-round pick (No. 29) in the 2010 NHL Draft. "It's a big game tonight. It's a huge game to just come right into. That's the exciting part. I'm going to be playing a bump-and-grind role, and I'm perfectly fine with that."

Etem has seven goals and four assists in 28 games for the Ducks this season, most of those early.

"He's fast, and he's strong," Boudreau said. "He's going to be a good NHL player. Whether it's right now or whether it's in a year or two, we don't know yet, but he's brings that kind of energy to your game."

Rakell has played nine games for the Ducks this season, with no goals and one assist. He was in the lineup as recently as March 10 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I'm excited to play," Rakell said. "It wasn't that long ago I was up, but I'm happy to be back. I think it's just a great challenge."

Goaltender Frederik Andersen was first off the ice and is expected to start for Anaheim. He's 16-4-0 this season, but one of his losses came in his only career start against San Jose, a 3-1 defeat on Dec. 29 at SAP Center.

"They came out really strong in the first," Andersen said. "They got two early ones. That got their crowd into the game too. That's something we want to be aware of and be ready for. We got to have a good start then take it shift by shift. This is a fun game to play. Whoever wins is going to be two points ahead."

This time, Andersen won't have Fowler on the ice to help him deal with the Sharks.

"You got a guy that plays against everybody's top line and yet can provide offense for you," Boudreau said of Fowler. "As good a skater as there is in the League and a puck mover from his own zone. You miss that, and he's basically the quarterback on the power play. We're just hoping it's closer to three weeks because it's already been a week. If you look at it that way, he should be back hopefully the middle of April."

Boudreau said Bonino should return "sooner rather than later" from his injury.

San Jose has been chasing Anaheim for most of the season. The Sharks haven't owned first place since Dec. 5.

"Obviously this Pacific Division is really tough this year, and Anaheim got out to a big lead, but we put ourselves in a good position to make a run in the home stretch, and tonight's the start of that," Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said.

Goaltender Antti Niemi was first off the ice for the Sharks and is expected to make his fourth straight start. Forward Raffi Torres skated but will miss his sixth straight game with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee.

The Sharks had an optional skate, and there's no indication whether forward Mike Brown, who leads the team in fighting majors, will be in the lineup.

Here are the projected lineups:


Teemu Selanne - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Daniel Winnik - Saku Koivu - Andrew Cogliano

Patrick Maroon - Mathieu Perreault - Kyle Palmieri

Emerson Etem - Rickard Rakell - Jakob Silfverberg

Luca Sbisa - Francois Beauchemin

Hampus Lindholm - Ben Lovejoy

Bryan Allen - Stephane Robidas

Frederik Andersen

Jonas Hiller

Scratched: Mark Fistric, Tim Jackman

Injured: Cam Fowler (left knee), Sheldon Souray (wrist), Nick Bonino (foot), Matt Beleskey (illness)


Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto

Marty Havlat - James Sheppard - Tommy Wingels

Tyler Kennedy - Adam Burish - Andrew Desjardins

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Scott Hannan - Dan Boyle

Matt Irwin - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Matt Tennyson, Mike Brown, Raffi Torres

Injured: Brad Stuart (upper body), Tomas Hertl (knee surgery)

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