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Ducks express optimism ahead of matchup with Jackets

Feb 19, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (36) looks for the puck during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Home from an up-and-down road trip that might signal better days are ahead, the Anaheim Ducks will put that outlook to the test when they play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday.

The Ducks enter off an uplifting 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. The Blue Jackets have a quick turnaround following a 5-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

Anaheim managed to beat Buffalo two days after getting rocked 9-2 by the host Toronto Maple Leafs. The Ducks allowed eight of those goals over the first two periods, with goalies Lukas Dostal and John Gibson each giving up four tallies.

Gibson took charge Monday, making 34 saves, including a fully extended glove stop near the post on Tage Thompson to preserve the lead with 8:19 remaining.

“I forget to talk about (Gibson) sometimes because he just is like that every night for us,” Ducks forward Troy Terry said after he had a goal and two assists in the win. “He really is the backbone of our team. … Some of the saves he made tonight were just outrageous.”

Frank Vatrano scored two second-period goals and Mason McTavish had three assists as the Ducks earned their 20th win of the season. Anaheim went 2-2-0 on its Eastern Conference road trip and is 5-3-1 since Jan. 23.

“I thought we kind of had a slow start the first 10 minutes of the first (period) and then we started playing better,” McTavish said on the Bally Sports West broadcast. “Obviously we had a great second and shut it down in the third.”

Like the Ducks, the Blue Jackets have long been out of the playoff chase but have been somewhat better of late, even with the four-goal defeat on Tuesday. Columbus is 3-4-1 since Jan. 25 and is sitting on 17 wins for the season.

Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner is leading by example for an otherwise young team, and the Columbus front office is not in a hurry to part with somebody so influential. Jenner had an assist Tuesday on the Blue Jackets’ lone goal from Adam Boqvist.

Although the trade deadline is approaching and the Blue Jackets are pushing toward the end of what will be a fourth consecutive season without a postseason appearance, improving the roster won’t come at the expense of Jenner. He leads the team with 17 goals, despite missing 15 games due to a broken jaw.

“We have no intentions of trading him, no,” team president of hockey operations John Davidson said of Boone, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “I don’t think there’s any good reasons to.

“I get lots of calls on Boone. Boone wants to be a Blue Jacket. Boone’s happy to be a Blue Jacket. He wants to lead us out of where we are right now and help get us to where we want to go.”

Davidson also is the team’s interim general manager after Jarmo Kekalainen was fired last week. Columbus then hit the road for a three-game California trip that concludes Wednesday. The Blue Jackets posted a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday before falling to the Kings on Tuesday.

–Field Level Media

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