Scott Niedermayer will take the ice on Sunday for the first time since he skated off with the Stanley Cup when the Anaheim Ducks host the San Jose Sharks, who've won five straight on the road.
Niedermayer, who was Anaheim's captain and the MVP of the postseason as the Ducks won their first Cup last season, missed the first two months of this season while contemplating retirement.
But the 34-year-old defenseman announced Dec. 5 that he would return. The Ducks (15-15-4) traded Andy McDonald to St. Louis Friday to clear cap space and activated Niedermayer, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, on Saturday.
After amassing 15 goals and 54 assists last season, he should give Anaheim a boost on both ends of the ice. The Ducks, also awaiting Teemu Selanne's decision on retirement, average 2.38 goals after scoring 3.10 last season, and they allow 2.82 after permitting just 2.42 last season.
Newly acquired veteran center Doug Weight, whom Anaheim received in the McDonald deal, is also expected to make his Ducks debut Sunday for a team that has scuffled in defense of its title. Anaheim has lost two in a row and three of four.
"It's been a strange turn of events here for a couple of days. All I know is right now with each moment I'm more excited," Weight said. "... We all know the position the Ducks were in, as far as the cap, as far as Scott coming back, as far as their future and things had to be done. It makes me feel good that the Ducks want me."
After learning about the trade, Anaheim lost its second straight, a 5-2 home setback to Minnesota Friday.
"We all knew what had transpired this afternoon," center Todd Marchant said. "Our focus was on Minnesota at the time, but obviously, somewhere between that point and now, we lost that focus."
Anaheim outshot the Wild 30-19, but goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere was pulled for the fifth time this season early in the second period after allowing three goals on nine shots. Giguere has allowed at least three goals in six of his last seven games, and is 3-4-0 with a 3.42 goals-against-average and .879 save percentage over that span.
But he's played well both times Anaheim has faced the Sharks (17-10-4) this season, allowing three goals in two games and winning both times in shootouts. Sunday's game is the first of three between the teams in a week.
San Jose travels south after Saturday's 4-2 home loss to Dallas that knocked it out of first place in the Pacific Division.
"It's tough," center Joe Thornton told the Sharks' official Web site. "These are big games. We'll be in a dog fight until the end of the year with (Dallas) and Anaheim. We'll think about it for 15 minutes and then move on to tomorrow night."
Thornton (13 goals, 25 assists) has 14 points in San Jose's last eight games, but the Sharks are playing without 6-foot-6 defenseman Alexei Semenov, who was placed on injured reserve with a broken finger Friday. They also remain without forwards Jeremy Roenick (knee) and Jonathan Cheechoo (groin), who were placed on IR Tuesday.
Still, the Sharks have won six of eight, and have points in 13 of their last 16. They also have the league's best road record at 11-3-2, and are 7-0-1 in their last eight away from home.