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Ducks’ John Gibson back after missing much of past month

ANAHEIM — An examination of Ducks goalie John Gibson’s appearances in December won’t take much time.

Dec. 3 – Shootout loss, 5-4, at Minnesota.

Dec. 6 – Overtime win, 4-3, at home against Carolina.

Dec. 9 – Injury forced him out of a home game against San Jose after two periods.

Dec. 13 – Lower-body injury took him out of a road game against Toronto.

On Wednesday night, Gibson returned to action for the first time since that game in Toronto, having suffered an injury midway through the second period. Heading into the Ducks’ game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Gibson was 5-14-3 with a 3.99 goals-against average and an .896 save percentage this season.

Rookie goalie Lukas Dostal stepped up in Gibson’s absence, starting five straight games and winning on the road in Montreal and Edmonton.

On top of an injury-riddled season, Gibson had to deal with a virus the week of Thanksgiving.

“Trying to play through being sick – I think it just shows what kind of a competitor he is,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said on Wednesday. “It is interesting – talking to him this morning, it’s probably the best he’s looked to me.

“The color of his face and his energy level. Hopefully he can have a good run  – illness and injury-free. … He’s a leader on our team. Obviously one of our better players. It’s hard to replace experience like that. So him coming back should be a very good boost to our group.”

HOME, AGAIN

Not only did the holiday serve as a much-needed break, Ducks players and staff welcomed the fact that they were finally able to spend an extended stretch of time at home after a road-heavy first third of the season.

“I was really excited to go to the rink yesterday to see the guys again,” forward Jakob Silfverberg said. “It’s been a hectic schedule for us. But just getting those three days – I felt yesterday and today, going into the game, it’s back to Game 1 again with the mental state. It really changes the attitude or whatever you want to call it.”

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said getting into a routine at home this past week was refreshing.

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“Yesterday’s practice was fun and lively and you need that,” he said. “You need to miss it a little bit in order to get that hunger back, especially with the way our season has been going. It’s been a fight. It allows you to – for whatever reason – we’re starting today and let’s see where we can go from here and start making a push and put a better product out.”

ICE CHIPS

Defenseman Urho Vaakanainen returned to the lineup – on the third pair with Shattenkirk – after a three-game absence. He had been dealing with an illness. With Gibson returning, the Ducks sent goaltender Olle Eriksson Ek back to AHL San Diego.

Youngster Jackson Lewis-Rodriguez has been able to spend the last couple of days around the organization, culminating with him leading the Ducks out on the ice for the start of Wednesday night’s game. The team partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the youngster and his family were at Great Park Ice on Tuesday, and the 12-year-old was on the ice with the Ducks near the end of practice.

Lewis-Rodriguez, of Rouses Point, N.Y., has a serious heart condition requiring a pacemaker.

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