John Gibson didn’t match the preseason success of Frederik Andersen and he’s short of his fellow Ducks goalie’s NHL experience, but in Gibson’s homecoming game tonight, he’s the expected starter.
“He’s a gamer, and he’ll give us every chance to win,” Ducks forward Corey Perry said of the 21-year-old Gibson.
Gibson was first off the ice at the Ducks’ morning skate Thursday before their season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a strong indicator of who’ll start.
Andersen, 25, won 20 regular-season games last season to Gibson’s three, and he was 2-1 in the preseason with a shutout and 1.65 goals-against average while Gibson was 0-2-1 with a 3.28 goals-against average while playing with younger teammates.
Yet, Andersen was the one doing extended work at Thursday’s practice, among other non-starters.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau declined to discuss who would start.
“In the end, their play will decide who will get the bulk of the games,” Boudreau said. “Right now, it’s pretty even. They both ended camp on a high note. They should both be ready.”
Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who helped Gibson win by shutouts in both his NHL regular-season and playoff debuts last season, said the team will again rally around whoever’s in net.
“John came in and did an outstanding job, and was a big part of our playoffs,” Lovejoy said. “The 18 guys in front of him have the utmost confidence in his abilities.”
Pittsburgh’s newly acquired forward, Patric Hornqvist, said it doesn’t matter who’s in net for the Ducks.
“Who cares?” Hornqvist said. “They’re both great goalies. That’s nothing we can control, so why waste energy on that? We need to keep [first-liners Corey] Perry and [Ryan] Getzlaf off the board, and control their power play. Be close to them, don’t give them time or space.”
FOWLER SKATES: Lovejoy’s defensive partner, Cam Fowler, skated again Thursday, a week after falling in practice, and said afterward he feels good enough to play against Pittsburgh’s potent lineup, pending Boudreau’s and the coaching staff’s blessing.
“You know when you’re ready,” Fowler said. “You want to be at 100 percent, not to do any harm to yourself or the team. You need to be at full capacity in these games. The last couple days have been good.”
PENGUINS NOTES: Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin is scheduled to play at right wing after just two full practice days recovering from an undisclosed off-season injury. A typical center who had 49 assists last season, Malkin is being eased back into action by new Pittsburgh Coach Mike Johnston.
Pittsburgh forward Pascal Dupuis is also set to return to the ice after suffering a tear of his anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 23. He’s expected to be on the line with Malkin and center Brandon Sutter.
“Long time coming for me, but at the same time, perfect timing,” Dupuis said. “Knee feels great, body’s ready. Being part of the whole week of preparation for game one is great. Starting on the same level as everyone.”
Hornqvist, acquired from Nashville in the off-season, said working with Malkin and returning NHL points leader Sidney Crosby on the power play has “great potential ... get the chemistry going and go from there. Obviously, great to start against such a great team. Let’s make a statement and go from there.”
Crosby said he expects a “high-paced game with a lot of energy,” and intends to send high pressure at Gibson, working during the game to establish where the goalie is vulnerable.