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Ducks’ John Klingberg eager for 1st game against Stars

ANAHEIM — The inevitable was delayed by a little more than a month and one lower-body injury.

Ducks defenseman John Klingberg took the ice against his former Dallas Stars teammates on Wednesday night at Honda Center. Accordingly, Klingberg was in the starting lineup.

Klingberg had said he was looking forward to a specific individual challenge.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun to play against Miro (Heiskanen),” he said after the morning skate on Wednesday. “We all know how good he is. It’s going to be fun to see how it is from the other side.”

Of course, the skilled defenseman, Heiskanen, is only one of several high-octane threats for the Stars. Heading into Wednesday’s action, linemates Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski have a combined 57 goals with Robertson leading the way with 26.

“Obviously that top line – I feel like I know them pretty well,” Klingberg said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to see if I can help our team to stop them a little bit.”

Klingberg had played his first eight NHL seasons with the Stars – highlighted by an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, losing to Tampa Bay – before signing as a free agent with the Ducks in July, a one-year, $7 million contract. The Ducks played and lost (5-0) in Dallas on Dec. 1, but Klingberg was not on that trip because of a lower-body injury and has struggled through most of the first half of the season.

“I think Kling is going to be fired up,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “He’s been doing a way better job of not complicating things as much and keeping it simple.”

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Said Klingberg: “It’s going to be a special game, obviously. … Going to be a lot of friendly faces out there but they’re going to be on the other side tonight. It’s going to be a lot of fun. But I think it’s a big game for both teams.”

Who does he think will be doing the most chirping from the other side?

“I think there’s going to be a lot of them,” Klingberg said. “I feel like I’m pretty close to a lot of them. Jamie (Benn) is probably going to be there … (Tyler Seguin), (Joe) Pavelski. Some of the Finns too probably. My old D partner, Esa Lindell, is probably going to be there too.”

Lindell weighed in on playing against his former teammate with a pre-game interview with Bally Sports Southwest, noting: “I’m not sure about that – I’m not a chirper. But it was weird to see it (Klingberg with Ducks) earlier in the year, but now I’m just excited that finally we play against each other.”

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