Anaheim Ducks

WATCH LIVE: Stars at Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks hope to clinch the top spot in the West by beating the team they knocked out of 2014’s first round.

The Dallas Stars aren’t in the mix this time around, yet they’ve been been feisty nonetheless, winning 12 of 17 contests and being an especially tough out on the road.

You can check out the second game of tonight’s NBCSN doubleheader either through normal TV measures or by streaming it via NBC Sports Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Important note: Ryan Getzlaf’s either being rested or out injured today.

Check out a longer preview here.

Canucks sign Dorsett and Sbisa to multi-year extensions

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The Vancouver Canucks have signed forward Derek Dorsett to a four-year contract extension and defenseman Luca Sbisa to a three-year extension.

Dorsett’s new deal is reportedly worth $2.65 million annually, while Sbisa’s cap hit is reportedly $3.6 million.

“Derek has been an incredibly valuable member of the Canucks roster, both on and off the ice this year,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning in a release. “His willingness to chip in both offensively and defensively while standing up for his teammates at all times has been instrumental to our success all season.”

On Sbisa, Benning said: “Luca has been a big part of our backend all season, logging big minutes during key stretches and doing anything that is asked of him by our coaching staff.”

Initial reaction:

— That’s a big commitment to keep a bottom-six forward like Dorsett, no matter how much he sticks up for his teammates. That being said, there’s no question the 28-year-old has made an impact since being traded by the Rangers to Vancouver in June. He’s fought 17 times, leads the team in hits (163), and has chipped in offensively with seven goals and 18 assists.

— Sbisa came to Vancouver in the Ryan Kesler trade with Anaheim. At the time, Benning saw Sbisa as a “guy that we feel can grow into a top-four defenseman.” Safe to say, the jury’s still out on the 25-year-old. Sbisa, the 19th overall pick in 2008, is a physical defender, and the Canucks like that about him, but he’s also been on the ice for a lot of goals against.

Goalie nods: Andersen likely for Ducks, who’ve yet to name playoff starter

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Andersen first off for Anaheim

Looks as though Frederik Andersen will be in goal tonight when the Ducks host the Stars on NBCSN.

Andersen was the first goalie off at this morning’s skate, suggesting he’ll take over the net after John Gibson allowed three goals on 22 shots in Friday’s 4-2 loss to Colorado. The Danish netminder will make his first start since last Wednesday, when he made 22 saves in an easy 5-1 win over Edmonton.

The bigger story for the Ducks, of course, is which goalie will get the start come playoff time. Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau continues to play coy with his choice, suggesting that he knows who he thinks will start Game 1 but won’t share that info with the media.

“I think we know who we’re going to play and what we’re going to be doing as a group,” Boudreau said, per the O.C. Register. “So let’s just leave it at that.”

Elsewhere…

Leafs at Jackets: James Reimer vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Bruins at Caps: Tuukka Rask vs. Braden Holtby

Linden on returning the Canucks to the playoffs: ‘It’s been a good year’

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The goal for the Vancouver Canucks was to return to the playoffs.

Last night, that goal was achieved. The Canucks clinched their spot when the Kings lost in Edmonton.

It begs the question — after all that went wrong last season — how did they do it?

“It started with just trying to have a plan going into it,” said Trevor Linden, the club’s first-year president of hockey operations, on TSN 1040 radio (audio).

Linden, hired a year ago tomorrow, went on to hire Jim Benning as the team’s new general manager, who went on to hire Willie Desjardins as the new head coach.

“Bringing Jim in really shaped the vision for this organization,” said Linden, referencing the numerous roster decisions that were made in the wake of last season’s disastrous campaign, from trading Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison, to bringing in Ryan Miller, Nick Bonino, and Derek Dorsett.

“And then of course, Willie has done an amazing job,” Linden added, noting the bounce-back seasons being enjoyed by the Sedins, Alex Edler, Alex Burrows, and Jannik Hansen, “these guys that were kind of lost last year.”

“It’s been a good year,” said Linden. “We’ve accomplished the goal we set out. Now it’s about making some noise here in the playoffs, and we look forward to that.

“Having said all that, we also recognize it’s one year. We’ve got a lot of work to do, we know that, and we’re prepared for that.”

That last remark is key. Because the Canucks, despite making the playoffs, remain long shots to win the Stanley Cup. They still need to keep restocking for the future — in particular, their blue line, which has looked old and slow at times. Currently, there’s no blue-chip defensive prospect in the system.

But that’s a topic for the offseason.

“It’s so satisfying to set a goal for this team to get us back to the playoffs,” said Linden.

“The easy way out is to just strip it down and blow it up and start over and draft in the top five every year. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to continue to build this team and be a playoff contender every year.”

NHL on NBCSN: Ducks aim to play postseason-style hockey against Stars

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The second of the two contests will feature the Anaheim Ducks hosting the Dallas Stars, with the puck scheduled to drop at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Stars have been a very good team lately and had they found a way to put it all together earlier in the season, they probably would have secured a postseason spot. The fact that they’re instead mathematically eliminated has caught some off guard, including Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano.

“Dallas – it’s pretty surprising they’re not in the playoffs because they’re so good,” Cogliano told the Orange County Register.

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For a while now Anaheim has been essentially — and now officially — locked into the first seed in the Pacific Division. Whether or not they finish with the top seed overall in the conference remains to be seen, but regardless they’re in a very comfortable position. That can be dangerous though. Teams that have to claw their way into the playoffs won’t have any trouble adjusting to the postseason atmosphere because they’ve been playing in it already. Meanwhile, Anaheim has to fight to stay sharp.

“You want to win the games, but I think you just got to play the game the right way and how you’re going to be playing once playoffs starts,” Cogliano said. “You just can’t turn it on. Those teams have been turned on for the last month or so.”

In that regard playing against Dallas should be a good test for the Ducks, because the Stars are a good team regardless of what their position in the standings might suggest. Although Dallas is also a squad with little left to play for, the Stars should still put forward a strong effort with an eye towards 2015-16.

“When you don’t make the playoffs playing in these games are tough,” Stars forward Tyler Seguin said, per the Dallas Morning News. “It’s frustrating. You try not to create bad habits. We have a mini training camp here, so we’ll work on our systematic stuff and try to get better.”

All of Dallas’ core players are under contract for the 2015-16 campaign, so the Stars will have another chance to show that this team can do great things. In the meantime, they have an opportunity to make a statement against one of the best squads in the league.