John Gibson

Looking to make the leap: John Gibson

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Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson has just three regular-season NHL games under his belt, but with the offseason departure of Jonas Hiller, the 21-year-old is set to make the leap as a potential starter in Orange County.

Gibson was recalled by the Ducks from its AHL affiliate in Norfolk on Apr. 6 due to an upper-body injury to Frederik Anderson.  The following night he made his NHL debut, making 18 saves and shutting out the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena for his first career win.

The Pittsburgh native went on to pick up wins at home against San Jose (April 9) and Colorado (April 13), before making his playoff debut on May 10, making 28 saves in a shutout victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.

The Ducks’ 2011 second-round pick went 2-2 in four playoff appearances.

Gibson made seven appearances in all during the 2013-14 season, posting a 1.33 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage.

On July 1, Hiller, an unrestricted free agent, signed with the Calgary Flames, paving the way for Gibson and Andersen, who have a combined 31 career regular season games under their belt, to battle it out for the starting job this season.

Speaking with the Ducks’ website last month, Gibson isn’t taking anything for granted heading into camp.

“We’ve had some good conversations, but obviously nothing is ever set in stone,” said Gibson of the vacant starting position. “I just want to come into training camp and play my game and hopefully have a good season.”

The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder says he plans on using his playoff experience against the Kings as motivation heading into what will be his rookie season.

“I think we’ll all use it for motivation for next year,” he said. “I don’t think we have to worry about in a negative way, but I think we’ll use it as a positive. “Obviously (the season) ended a little earlier than I would have liked, but I think I learned a lot. I’ll be ready to go next year, take what I learned, be better and hopefully go further in the playoffs.”

Pushing the two young goaltenders will be veteran Jason Labarbera, who signed a one-year, $750,000 contract on July 1. However, during his state of the franchise address in June, general manager Bob Murray seemed satisfied entering the 2014-15 season with his oldest goaltender, Andersen, being just 24 years of age.

“I like our two young goaltenders a lot, I’ll tell you that. I’m very pleased with the progress they made this year,” he said. “They both feel they can get better, and so do I. But they’re two real good kids. I think they both have a chance to be NHL No. 1 goalies, yes.”

With Andersen ($1.15 million) and Gibson ($722,000) making under $2 million combined this season, it gives Murray, who according to CapGeek has just over $11 million to play with, the freedom to add to an already veteran-laden lineup.

What has to be exciting for Ducks’ fans is, if Gibson manages to earn the starting role out of camp and maintain his albeit-brief NHL success, Anaheim still has one more year to give the goaltender a thorough look in 2015-16 at a bargain price of $721,667.

Related: Under Pressure: Bruce Boudreau

Zubrus in, Nieto likely out for Sharks in Stanley Cup Final opener

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Dainius Zubrus #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.

But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.

The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.

Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.

Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.

Flames’ Jokipakka (hip) might not play for Finns at World Cup

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Jyrki Jokipakka #3 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.

“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”

Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.

Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).

So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.

Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.

‘Yep,’ Letang will play tonight

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.

Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.

He was asked if he was playing.

“Yep.”

So, no problems?

“Nope.”

And that was that.

No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.

“Very confident,” said Sullivan.

Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.

Former NHLer Bulis calls it a career

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23:  Center Jan Bulis #38 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the Washington Capitals on December 23, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Capitals won 4-2.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.

Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.

Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).