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John Gibson skates in practice and could be in goal for Ducks in Game 1 against Sharks

John Gibson seems primed to man the net when the Ducks open the playoffs Thursday.

The team's starting goaltender skated at Monday's practice at Honda Center after receiving treatment during the team's off-day Sunday.

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After Gibson suffered an upper-body injury in a game against the Colorado Avalanche on April 1, Ryan Miller started three consecutive games to cap the regular season.

The Ducks closed the season with five consecutive victories, their strong play vaulting them to home-ice advantage for a first-round matchup against the San Jose Sharks.

Gibson's return would only buoy the team's growing confidence.

"We fully expect if he continues to show this progression that he's going to be available to us" for Game 1, coach Randy Carlyle said. "He's moving well, so hopefully things continue to progress at the same rate they have over the last 48 hours and then we'll make a decision."

Gibson isn't the only player who could come back for the start of the playoffs. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who had surgery on his left hand March 16, fully participated in practice.

Bieksa, 36, hasn't suited up since the procedure to have scar tissue removed from his hand. Carlyle values the veteran for his experience and toughness, but the turnover-prone defenseman has a team-worst plus-minus rating of minus-13.

"If he continues to show that his hand is healed," Carlyle said, "he'll be an option for us."

One player who probably won't be an option for the Ducks, at least for Game 1, is Cam Fowler. The defenseman, still on the mend after suffering a shoulder injury late in the season, didn't practice Monday.

The Ducks could surely use their top defenseman. They went 1-1-2 against the Sharks this season, and when the clubs last met Feb. 11, Evander Kane hadn't yet been acquired by the Sharks.

The trade-deadline pickup has been a boon for the Sharks' offense. In 17 games in San Jose, Kane has nine goals and five assists. The 26-year-old is a threat to score from anywhere on the ice, and he'll be relied upon with Joe Thornton (knee surgery in January) doubtful for Game 1.

"He's went out and made a contribution and just added more strength to their lineup, simple as that," said Carlyle, whose Ducks kept Kane, then with the Buffalo Sabres, off the score sheet in two games. "He's a formidable power forward that we have to make sure we pay attention to."

Without Fowler to help contain Kane, the Ducks at least will enjoy home-ice advantage, a feat that seemed improbable even two weeks ago.

The Ducks were battling with the Avalanche and St. Louis Blues just to secure a wild-card berth. Instead, the Ducks finished second in the Pacific Division ahead of the Sharks and Kings.

Carlyle acknowledged that the jam-packed race and playoff uncertainty applied "pressure for a good two months now."

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