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John Gibson returns to Ducks practice

Randy Carlyle admitted he cringes every time John Gibson goes down, and who could blame him?

The Ducks’ starting goalie has been forced to leave the game six times this season, and didn’t return in any of them. Instead, it was Ryan Miller who provided relief each time. The 37-year-old backup was in net again Wednesday to backstop the Ducks to victory — and a playoff berth — but Gibson could be returning from his latest injury soon.

The 24-year-old, who suffered an upper-body injury Sunday, returned to practice Thursday and could suit up for the Ducks’ final home game of the regular season Friday. Carlyle, as always, wasn’t tipping his hand.

"[Gibson has] been lucky that it hasn’t been long-term,” Carlyle said, referring to the goalie’s ever-changing availability. “If it’s a bump and a bruise and a strain and we can get through it in a day or two, then that’s great.”

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Gibson could receive a Vezina Trophy nomination for his play. He’s been stellar this season, with a 2.43 goals-against average, along with a .926 save percentage.

The postseason will kick off next week, and if Miller continues to impress, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, if unlikely, that he could earn a start at some point in the playoffs.

“We’ll play the best people,” Carlyle said “and both goalies have given us A-quality goaltending.”

sports@latimes.com

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