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Coach hedges, but Ducks' goalie John Gibson looks like starter

Coach hedges, but Ducks' goalie John Gibson looks like starter
Anaheim goalie John Gibson, top, and teammate Hampus Lindholm defend against Vancouver's Brad Richardson on April 7. (Jonathan Hayward / Associated Press / The Canadian Press)

With an opportunity to clinch a second consecutive Pacific Division championship by beating the San Jose Sharks tonight, Ducks’ 20-year-old rookie John Gibson was first off the ice at today’s morning skate.

Throughout the season, with the exception of a last-minute injury to former Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth, the goalie off the ice first has started that night's game.

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Gibson made his NHL debut Monday night in Vancouver, Canada, making 18 saves in a 3-0 shutout that was one of the Ducks’ most complete efforts of the season.

When Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau was asked, however, whether letting Gibson off the ice first was an indication that he wanted that type of play to continue with the Ducks being so attentive to defense and responsible puck handling, Boudreau hedged on whether it will be Gibson in net tonight.

"Not saying that he's in," Boudreau said. "He may have come off first, but there were  reasons for that."

Which were? Boudreau was asked.

"Not telling you," Boudreau said. "We'll see tonight. I don't know that he's in."

That's likely gamesmanship with the rival Sharks.

If it’s not Gibson, the choice would be the team’s primary starter this season, Jonas Hiller (29-13-7), who has lost three straight games -- including giving up four goals on nine shots to Nashville on Friday -- and is 6-9-3 after winning 14 straight in December and January.

Ducks forward Corey Perry said "it's a big game for us," with the Sharks (49-21-9) just three points behind the Ducks (51-20-8) with three games remaining for each team.

"We want to be going into the playoffs riding that high. Vancouver was a great start for us," Perry said.

The Ducks are just a point out of the Western Conference lead after St. Louis lost to Washington on Tuesday.

While the Ducks have games remaining against the Kings at Staples Center on Saturday and versus visiting Colorado on Sunday, St. Louis goes to Minnesota, Dallas, and is home to Detroit.

"Anytime you can push your way to the top, it's an honor," Perry said. "Still a lot of work to do, but it's a step in the right direction."

Twitter: @latimespugmire

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