The Anaheim Ducks will be shooting to improve to 4-0-0 Thursday when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Anaheim has been riding the play of goaltender John Gibson, who has been the winner in each of the team's three games, has a 1.00 goals-against average and a .970 save percentage.
"John Gibson has got a massive amount of leadership skills in him, and he's the best goalie in the game," Ducks coach Dallas Eakins proclaimed.
Gibson, a 26-year-old native of the Pittsburgh suburb of Whitehall, has kept the Ducks in close games -- one one-goal win and two by a two-goal margin, but all within one goal during the third period.
"All the wins throughout the year aren't going to be great games," said Jakob Silfverberg, who got the second of two goals in 47 seconds in the third period Tuesday as the Ducks won at Detroit 3-1. "'Gibby' was awesome in net, and we managed to score at crucial times. That's how we got through it."
Anaheim's penalty killing has dovetailed with Gibson's play to keep the Ducks in tight games. Anaheim has killed off all seven opponent power plays (and are 27 of 27 including the preseason).
Anaheim also started with three wins a year ago, then pushed it to 5-1-1, but things hit reverse with a seven-game losing skid. The team was under .500 by the time November arrived.
While the Ducks won on the road against the Red Wings and continue their four-game road trip Thursday, Pittsburgh has had the luxury of opening with a four-game homestand that ends Thursday.
The Penguins have not been able to take full advantage of that, starting 1-2-0, at least in part because of mounting injuries to forwards.
Already without centers Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad and winger Bryan Rust -- who are out for an extended period of time -- the Penguins lost winger Patric Hornqvist on Tuesday in the first period of a 4-1 loss against Winnipeg when he got hit by a shot taken by teammate Kris Letang.
Hornqvist did not practice Wednesday, and, in something of a surprise, neither did winger Alex Galchenyuk.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Hornqvist and Galchenyuk are day-to-day because of lower-body injuries, which is better news than he has had on other injured players lately, but that does not mean one or both will be available against the Ducks.
"It's pretty crazy, honestly. It's pretty unfortunate," said Pittsburgh winger Zach Aston-Reese, who sported a chipped tooth and swollen lip after the loss to the Jets.
The injuries put the onus on the Penguins' healthy offensive threats.
Team captain Sidney Crosby got his first goal, the team's only goal, Tuesday, and linemate Jake Guentzel picked up the primary assist, his second of the season, to go along with no goals after he notched 40 last season.
"It's not common," Crosby said of the string of early injuries to key players, "but I don't think any team we're playing anytime soon is going to feel sorry for us. It's something we can rally around.
"It's not easy, but collectively we're going to have to find a way to do it if we're going to stay in the playoff race here, especially early on."
--Field Level Media
Gibson, Ducks eye 4-0 start vs. banged-up Penguins