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Ducks at Flames Preview: Gibson is back

Coming off of a heartbreaking loss, the Ducks will get John Gibson back for their first road game of the season.

Alexander Yelesin #45 of the Calgary Flames and Max Jones #49 of the Anaheim Ducks compete for position during an NHL game on February 17, 2020 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

The Anaheim Ducks are coming off of an unfortunate loss in Orange County to the Minnesota Wild, in which backup goaltender Anthony Stolarz almost managed to steal the show.

Now, with the Ducks re-assigning Lukas Dostal back to the San Diego Gulls in the American Hockey League, it appears as though we will see John Gibson back in action tonight against the Calgary Flames.

This is the first time since Feb. 17, 2020 that the Ducks will play the Flames. It’ll be an important inter-divisional matchup, as both teams hope to take away potential points from the other.

The Flames lost their season opener to the Edmonton Oilers, 5-2. Connor McDavid scored a hat trick against them, and their goaltender Jacob Markstrom continued to struggle.

The Flames will also be getting Blake Coleman into the lineup. He was suspended back in the preseason for one regular-season game. This will be his regular season debut with Calgary, and he’ll be a key piece to their success if they do end up winning this game.

As provided by Natural Stat Trick, here is a look at the Flames’ all-strengths heat map against the Oilers in their season opener:

The Flames actually were the better team analytically, creating high-scoring chances while also making sure the Oilers weren’t really creating scary chances, they just got out-goalied by Mike Smith, and dominated by the beast that is McDavid.

It’s unsure if the Ducks will be getting Troy Terry back in the lineup or not, as he currently struggles with a non-COVID related illness.

Will we see a repeat of the Minnesota game?

The Flames play a similar style to the Wild, which could be very unsettling if you’re a Ducks fan. Anaheim struggled to get practically anything going offensively against Minnesota, held to just one goal, while being outshot 43-29 and dominated in xGF.

The Ducks are going to need to find a way to get more slot passes and scoring chances if they want to avoid a repeat of Friday’s game.

Will Zegras finally get big minutes?

Okay, let’s say we’re giving Dallas Eakins the benefit of the doubt. It is the start of the season, so it may be hard to distribute ice time accordingly for the first couple of games, but if Trevor Zegras’ minutes are still heavily limited for this game, it may be time to start asking some questions.

Zegras was held to just 14:37 last game, which is less than Benoit-Olivier Groulx than almost two minutes, defenseman Greg Pateryn by less than a minute, and three minutes less than Derek Grant. That’s just not acceptable.

If Zegras isn’t going to get his time, it may just be more wise to let him play in another league and develop at this point because it’s starting to get a little ridiculous. Play the kid.

Make or break for McTavish

After an elite NHL debut, during which he scored a goal and an assist against the Winnipeg Jets, Mason McTavish seemed pretty quiet in the game against the Wild. I didn’t really notice him out there, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, he just wasn’t a game-changer.

McTavish has seven games until he gets to the nine game limit where the Ducks must decide if they will loan him back to the Ontario Hockey League, or if he’ll stick with the top guys in Anaheim. These next couple of games will likely make or break that decision.

Bold Prediction

The Ducks blow the Flames out, with McTavish scoring another goal, and Zegras contributing to at least two more points.