It might not be finalized in the minds of people who see with dollar signs, but for anyone basing their opinion on what's happened on the ice. . . .
New backup goaltender?
John Gibson gave the Ducks every reason to designate him the team's backup goalie Thursday.
As injured 29-game winner Frederik Andersen nears a scheduled return next week, Gibson, 21, unquestionably elevated himself past veteran Ilya Bryzgalov on the depth chart with a 35-save showing in a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters afterward that the Gibson-Bryzgalov decision is not entirely his.
The team owes Bryzgalov $1.9 million for his work this season, so there's incentive to keep him around, and there's also a belief it's a sound strategy, considering Anaheim used three goaltenders in last season's playoffs.
A veteran's poise might come in handy in crunch time, and Gibson, who suffered a serious groin injury in October, needs to prove he can endure a steady NHL workload.
But while Bryzgalov is 1-4-1 and the Ducks were staggering through a stretch in which they allowed four or more goals in five of seven games, Gibson stepped in and made a series of NHL-caliber saves to stop the skid.
" 'Gibby' played great for us," Ducks forward Matt Beleskey said.
The cleanup crew performed
The Ducks were embarrassed by nine penalties in a 6-2 loss Tuesday in Florida, an uncharacteristic, disjointed performance that Boudreau said may go down as the low point of the regular season.
So they made a concerted effort to make more conservative passes on their defensive end, working to press the puck to the offensive half and impose their physicality – measures taken to fix the defensive rut.
"I didn't think they had a ton of good shots – they had some good ones, for sure, 'Gibby' made some big saves – but I think if we keep guys shooting from the outside, our goalie's going to make those saves for us," Beleskey said.
Praise for the tough guy
Both Boudreau and right wing Corey Perry said the main offensive spark was forward Tim Jackman's decision to fight Carolina's Tim Gleason with 7:14 left in the second period.
"It was the fight, with 'Jacko,' that really turned the tide," Perry said. "We're not a big fighting team, but when the time needs to come, guys step up, they do it. That was probably the perfect time to do it. He got the ball rolling."
Less than two minutes later, Perry charged to the net, setting up a Francois Beauchemin goal.
Call it a win and go home
There are absolute flaws still to rectify – getting out-shot 36-17 by a last-place team is a good place to start – but fatigue was nearly a constant strain on this trip to the South, and 2-2-1 with Nashville, Tampa Bay and Washington on the journey isn't cause to panic for the first-place Ducks.