The tug of homecoming is substantial, but instead of a glorious return, Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin will have to settle for a pain-free power shot in practice.
Beauchemin, out since breaking a finger while blocking a shot in a Nov. 25 home game, will be kept out of Thursday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens, the team that drafted him in 1998 and that plays in a building he was born an hour's drive away from.
"He's not playing tonight," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said following his team's morning skate at Bell Center. "'Beauch' is being real smart about it. There's a lot of things he could do to play, but if it's not ready to go and he got it banged around the wrong way and he's out eight to 10 more weeks, we're losing a very important piece of the puzzle."
Beauchemin previously missed five games (Nov. 9-18) with the mumps, returned and was injured in his third game back. This layoff is now at 10 games with Thursday's absence.
Toughness is not the issue for the 34-year-old. He returned from a torn knee ligament in the 2008-09 season to participate in the playoffs.
On Thursday, he blasted a practice shot to the net, squeezed his hand and nodded affirmatively: He's close.
"We want to make sure he's right, that the finger's healed," Boudreau said.
HEATLEY ALSO OUT: Expect Wednesday recall Emerson Etem to play Thursday instead of veteran forward Dany Heatley, who is also near a return after undergoing groin surgery last month.
ANDERSEN IN FOR 20: Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen left the skate before backup Ilya Bryzgalov on Thursday, and said he'll play in his 20th consecutive game against the Canadiens.
"I know how to play goalie," he said with a smile.
Andersen allowed four goals on 20 shots in Tuesday's 6-2 loss at Toronto, but he's also minded the net as the Ducks (21-7-5) have ascended to the NHL's best record.
"He's durable, played back-to-back last week and was better in the second game than he was the first," Boudreau said.
Bryzgalov gave up two goals on seven shots in relief Thursday, and Boudreau has hinted he'll start Friday in Ottawa.
"The greatest goaltenders have off nights and he's no different, but when he's on, he gives us a chance to win," Boudreau said.