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Koivu 'doubtful' to return for Ducks tonight

by Curtis Zupke
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It appears that the Anaheim Ducks will have to wait longer to get one of their top two-way players and faceoff men back.

Saku Koivu was thought to be closer to returning from a groin injury but he might need a few more days. Anaheim hosts Vancouver on Thursday night.

"Did you see him staying out there and doing extra skating?" Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau asked reporters after the morning skate.

"He's doubtful for tonight."

If Koivu can't go, Nick Bonino will likely resume Koivu's place as the second line center between Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne.

Bonino is among the younger players that Boudreau wanted to evaluate. He has only 4 points in 41 career NHL games, but those 41 games have been spread out in stints.

"We're putting him in a position to get success as far as playing with Bobby and Teemu," Boudreau said.

"And I thought he played really well (Monday) in San Jose. He set up some really good opportunities. I think a lot of that stuff comes with a little bit of confidence and the opportunity that he's getting a chance to play."

Big test: Anaheim is trying to win consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 16-17, and the challenge doesn’t get much bigger than Vancouver. The Ducks beat the Canucks, 4-3, on Nov. 11, but a lot has changed.

"When they got (Ryan) Kesler going really well, it adds a new dimension to their game," Boudreau said. "And (Roberto) Luongo going really well -- he definitely didn't look like the goalie that Washington faced in October."

Luongo is 9-2-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average in December after he backstopped a 3-2 overtime win against San Jose on Wednesday night.

Vancouver, which did not practice Thursday, is expected to start Cory Schneider in goal. But Boudreau acknowledged that the Canucks look much different overall than when he saw them on Oct. 29 as Washington coach.

"It looks like, when they get out there, they feel they can score every time," Boudreau said. "Their penalty killing, when needed, shuts teams down … when you have that combination and kind of confidence, you can come into a building and dictate the way you want to play. They look like they've got all that confidence."

Beleskey thriving:
Anaheim winger Matt Beleskey seems to be thriving under Boudreau.

The winger has all five of his points this season under the new coach. Beleskey briefly played with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry earlier in his career, but he’s been used on the third line with Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon.

"For the last few games, he's been playing harder and competing harder," Boudreau said. "And when you compete harder, you get opportunity. And he's getting opportunities to score, he's getting chances and he's checking. And he's getting involved. He's gotten in two fights, I think, in the last five or six games. When you get involved and you get engaged in the game then opportunities will come."

Blake closer:
Anaheim winger Jason Blake has been skating with the club and could be ahead of schedule on his projected mid-January return from a severe laceration of his left wrist, suffered Oct.14 when San Jose's Brent Burns accidentally stepped on him.
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