James O'Brien

at Honda Center on November 9, 2015 in Anaheim, California.
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Stewart draws into Ducks lineup; Andersen starts instead of Gibson

The Anaheim Ducks will have Chris Stewart in their lineup for the first time since Dec. 21.

Chances are, Stewart is likely to either fight, score, fight and score or just sort of slip under the radar against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night.

Jiri Sekac appears to be the odd man out in this exchange:

The Ducks are on a three-game winning streak, including two straight shutouts by John Gibson, but it’s not like they’ve been blowing out opponents with consecutive 1-0 victories.

Speaking of those shutouts, Gibson is getting a breather in favor of Frederik Andersen.

In some ways that might seem baffling, yet Gibson played on Thursday and has been the guy in net for more than a week now, so why not take a bigger picture view by getting Andersen some reps and Gibson some rest?

(Yes, that last point might indeed seem dumb in retrospect if the Ducks have a rough night.)

With Bishop a little banged up, Lightning recall Vasilevskiy

Ben Bishop
AP

The Tampa Bay Lightning don’t have a game on the docket on Friday, yet it’s been a busy day in their net.

One scare was, at least at this point, more of a bullet allegedly dodged: Ben Bishop left practice early on, but just for precautionary reasons.

So … maybe this isn’t technically directly related then, even if feels that way, but regardless: the Lightning brought up Andrei Vasilevskiy from the AHL while demoting Kristers Gudlevskis.

Again, this may have been a part of the plan:

While that seems a little murky, there’s a chance Ondrej Palat may be able to return soon, so that’s a nice plus for a Lightning team that’s still trying to find its footing.

Report: Panthers will sign Gerard Gallant to an extension, too

Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant, center, talks to the players in the third period of an NHL hockey preseason game against the Dallas Stars in Sunrise, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. The Stars won 4-3 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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It’s not official, but it sounds like the Florida Panthers signed head coach Gerard Gallant to a two-year contract extension, or they’re very close to doing so.

That’s the news from George Richards of the Miami Herald, who reports that an official announcement is expected to come sometime on Saturday.

In a way, it’s as if the Panthers are locking up their core … only it’s in the front office, not on the roster.

The Panthers already announced an extension for GM Dale Tallon and a new title (associate GM) for Tom Rowe. Again, the Gallant news comes from Richards rather than being official.

With their seven-game winning streak intact, this certainly seems timely for the franchise. The Panthers continue to make steady progress for the most part, with what appears to be a clear plan – and rare stability – after years of mismanagement.

Gerard faces challenges ahead in getting Florida into the playoffs, ideally with at least a round of home-ice advantage (which they’d achieve if the postseason began today).

Tallon must overcome hurdles of his own, most precisely in locking up the young stars he’s amassed, especially rising assets like Aleksander Barkov (who needs an extension of his own).

Oilers are getting healthier, including McDavid, Yakupov

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Things are looking better for the Edmonton Oilers health-wise … except maybe for Oscar Klefbom.

Let’s get to the good news, though.

Two key forwards resumed skating on Friday: Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov.

McDavid seemed pretty happy with how things went two months after he broke his collarbone in a freak bit of bad luck. You can see full video of his comments above.

“It’s good to feel normal again and be out there with them,” McDavid said. “Today was a little bit of a lighter practice, they were getting ready for tomorrow’s game but it was still a lot of fun to be out there.”

He pointed out that, with an upper-body injury, McDavid can keep his legs fresh, which could be good news regarding 2015’s No. 1 pick hitting the ground running whenever he returns.

(The team only really said that he’s on schedule, which isn’t super-useful since previous updates were a little opaque.)

Speaking of portions of a body being injured, that Klefbom update, which is troubling while also being vaguely amusing:

The issue being not-short-term: not funny. Calling him injured in both his upper and lower-body: kinda funny.

Anyway, with the Oilers hitting a lull after showing some serious signs of improvement, it’s heartening that two of their No. 1 overall picks are that much closer to returning to the lineup.

Sharks ride strong finish to win vs. Flyers

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The San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers don’t meet that often, but the two teams lived up to rivalry night with a bitter affair. Call it a mean-spirited version of quality over quantity.

Maybe those bad feelings powered the Sharks in the end; after falling behind 2-1 early in the third period, the Sharks stormed back with three unanswered goals to win the game 4-2.

Joe Pavelski was the ultimate difference-maker on Wednesday, scoring the game-winning goal and the insurance dagger. His captain’s “C” may also be short for “clutch.”

Here’s his game-winner:

Another plus for San Jose: Logan Couture didn’t just return from his latest injury issues, he also contributed to the win with two assists.

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Again, there was plenty of nastiness to go around in this one.

Chris VandeVelde stood out by giving and receiving some of the biggest hits of that contest:

The Flyers might feel beat up as a group right now, as they’ve lost the first two games of their tough road trip through California with matching 4-2 losses (they wrap it up against the Kings in Los Angeles on Saturday).

That’s not to say it’s all about news for Philly, though, as Claude Giroux may feel rejuvenated by breaking his five-game pointless streak with a goal.

So that’s a plus … and there’s also the perk of not having to visit the Sharks in San Jose again this season.