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Ducks, getting healthy, face banged-up Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Anaheim Ducks, who visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, are getting healthier.

In a 6-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, a game that opened a four-game Ducks road trip, Anaheim (4-3-1) got its captain back as well as a key defenseman.

Captain Ryan Getzlaf, a first-line center, returned to the lineup and produced a goal and an assist. He missed the previous three games due to a lower-body injury.

"I felt good getting my wind back," Getzlaf told the media in Philadelphia. "My passing and those sorts of things will come.

"Last time, we rushed it back, and I ended up back on injured reserve. This time, we wanted to make sure we did the work and we were ready to go."

Getzlaf, a first-round pick in 2003, has one goal and three assists in three games this season. At 32, he is starting to show signs of age, but he can still be productive setting up teammates as evidenced by his 73 points, including 58 assists, in 74 games last season.

In addition to Getzlaf, the Ducks on Tuesday welcomed back Hampus Lindholm, who is perhaps their top defenseman. He had offseason shoulder surgery but was able to log 20 minutes in his 2017-18 debut against the Flyers.

"He's a minutes-chewer on the back end," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said of Lindholm. "We've been banged up with injuries. But anytime you can welcome veterans back, it does energize your group and give you confidence."

Lindholm, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, is part of what some have considered one of the top half-dozen defense crews in the league.

Last season, Lindholm had six goals, 14 assists and a plus-13 rating in 66 games. The 23-year-old said he felt "OK" on Tuesday.

"It took awhile to get the feel of the game," he said. "The game is quick. You have to be in position or teams will make you pay."

The Panthers (3-5-0) would love to make the Ducks pay with their speed, which is considerable. Florida is off to a poor 1-4-0 start on the road but is 2-1-0 at home.

Florida will be without starting goalie Roberto Luongo through Saturday at least. He injured his right hand last weekend and was placed on injured reserve.

With Luongo out, James Reimer has been making all the starts, although the Panthers signed Antti Niemi off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi is expected to serve as the backup, although he is off to a brutal start. In three games with Pittsburgh this season, he had a nasty 7.50 goals-against average and a .797 saves percentage. He is last in the NHL in both categories.

Still, the Panthers touted Niemi's experience in a statement released by general manager Dale Tallon.

"Antti is a proven veteran who further stabilizes our organization's goaltending depth," Tallon said. "We're happy to welcome him to South Florida."

The Panthers are also missing two forwards due to injuries: Jared McCann (lower body) and Colton Sceviour (upper body).

Florida's best player so far has been Aleksander Barkov, who is one of the best-two way centers in the league. Jonathan Huberdeau leads the team with eight points. And Evgeni Dadonov, who joins Barkov and Huberdeau on that top line, has showed impressive creativity with the puck.

On the down side, the Panthers don't seem to have caught on to new coach Bob Boughner's system quite yet. They are below average in every category, including goals scored, goals allowed, power play and penalty kill.

The Ducks, who have started 24-year-old goalie John Gibson (4-2-1) in all but one game this season, were struggling to score goals until breaking out on Tuesday. Their power play has converted on just 7.1 percent of their opportunities -- far below the league average of 18.7 percent.

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