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Friday, May 9, 2014
Will John Gibson start Game 4 for Ducks?

By Pierre LeBrun



LOS ANGELES -- The Anaheim Ducks will have more changes to their lineup for Game 4 thanks to three injuries incurred Thursday night.

Forwards Matt Beleskey and Mathieu Perreault, as well as goalie Frederik Andersen were all knocked out of the lineup after suffering "lower body" injuries in Game 3.

The Ducks haven’t announced it yet, but young phenom netminder John Gibson was on a plane back from AHL Norfolk on Friday and will be in uniform for Saturday’s game at Staples Center. The Kings lead the series 2-1.

The question is, will Gibson be in goal or not?

The safer play might be to go with experience in veteran Jonas Hiller, who looked poised when replacing the injured Andersen midway through the third period Thursday in Anaheim’s 3-2 win.

On the other hand, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau is not scared to make bold decisions.

To wit:
- Boudreau made the rookie Andersen the surprise starter for Game 3 despite solid games by Hiller in Anaheim, albeit both losses. The move paid off as Andersen was excellent, beaten only once Thursday night, before getting injured.

- While coach of the Capitals in 2009, Boudreau stunned everyone by starting then relatively unknown rookie goalie Semyon Varlamov in the second game of the playoffs, giving veteran Jose Theodore the hook after just one game. Varlamov, 20 at the time, had but six NHL games under his belt before that playoff start. He would be Washington’s goalie for the rest of those playoffs.

So yes, while Boudreau was being coy Friday when meeting with media at the team’s L.A. hotel, it would not surprise anyone if he was giving the Gibson option some serious thought, regardless of whether or not he does it.

"He’s always an option, if he’s called up," Boudreau smiled when asked about Gibson possibly starting Saturday.

Perhaps some of that is to keep the Kings guessing, too, but the gut feeling here is that the Ducks coach was giving this some real internal debate Friday.

Gibson went 3-0-0 with the Ducks this season, his .954 save percentage a product of stopping 83 of 87 shots he faced. More notably, he was given the start late in the regular season in a huge game against San Jose when first place in the Pacific Division still hung in the balance, and he was brilliant in the victory over the Sharks.

He also backstopped Norfolk to a playoff series upset over the Kings’ AHL team, Manchester, in the opening round and, by all accounts, was out of this world. He sports a .955 save percentage and 1.45 goals-against average in six AHL playoff games.

On the flip side, this is a heck of stage for a 20-year-old kid with very little NHL experience.

Boudreau will not tip his hand Saturday at the morning skate, so this will not be answered until Saturday night in warm-ups.

But the goalies would know before going to bed Friday night.

“Well, I’ll have to know before the evening is out, because I want the goalies to know the night before. I don’t like shocking them first thing in the morning," said Boudreau on Friday morning.

Things are never dull with this Ducks team, that’s for sure.

Meanwhile, with Beleskey and Perreault injured, Daniel Winnik and Rickard Rakell are the most likely sub-ins, but Boudreau would not divulge any lineup details Friday.