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    Ducks head to Tampa Bay for Alex Killorn’s return
    • January 12, 2024

    The Ducks made their way down to Tampa Bay, where winger Alex Killorn spent 11 seasons grinding for the Lightning, whose crowd will surely embrace him warmly in his return Saturday.

    Killorn picked up two assists during Tuesday’s 5-3 win in Nashville to kick off this six-game road trip, the Ducks’ longest of 2023-24, but was held scoreless and shotless with a minus-three rating on Thursday when the Ducks fell 6-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Both teams struck quickly en route to a 3-3 score, with Carolina scoring twice in 15 seconds during the first period and the Ducks tallying two goals in 45 ticks of the second. But the Ducks were overmatched overall by one of the East’s deepest and most tenacious teams. They needed acrobatics fit for Cirque du Soleil from goalie John Gibson, who made at least three highlight-reel stops in the first period and more still before he exited the game with an upper-body injury.

    “Gibbie kept us in the game, it easily could have been five-nothing after two periods,” coach Greg Cronin said.

    Though no goalie was recalled Friday, if Gibson were to miss any more time, he would be the latest admission into the Ducks’ triage unit. They placed Trevor Zegras (broken ankle) and Pavel Mintyukov (separated shoulder) on injured reserve Thursday, where they joined forward Max Jones. Those absences, combined with the uncertain health of Tristan Luneau and departure of Jamie Drysdale in the Cutter Gauthier trade, have left an already inexperienced and not-so-deep roster in even more of a bind, despite notching an impressive eight goals in its past two outings.

    “Nobody’s going to magically appear and score goals for us,” Cronin said. “We’ve got to get them out of what we’ve got currently, for players, and we’ve got to find creative ways to create offense. It is what it is, it’s an offensively challenged group.”

    Cronin pointed to the contributions of Carolina’s defensemen to its offense, 28 goals this season, as one significant difference-maker. The Ducks’ have received a modest dozen goals from the blue line this year and in less than convincing fashion. Six of those goals have come from rugged Radko Gudas and four more have come from rearguards that are either injured or no longer with the team, meaning the existing group outside of Gudas has a meager two goals, both by Cam Fowler.

    There could be some offensive relief in the form of center Leo Carlsson, who was a full participant in practice Friday. He sustained a knee injury Dec. 22 that was to sideline him for about a month, but 2023’s No. 2 overall pick has healed quickly. Isac Lundeström, who missed 35 games (Achilles), scored his first goal since February of last year on Thursday, and Brett Leason notched his first point since being a healthy scratch for two games.

    Next up, the available version of the Ducks will square off with the Lightning, who brought two championships to Tampa Bay and lost in two more Stanley Cup Final series during Killorn’s tenure, which spanned from 2012-13 to last season. In a letter he penned to the Tampa fans after signing a four-year pact with the Ducks this past offseason, he said he “always imagined being a Bolt forever.”

    “When I was drafted in 2007, I never would have imagined all the accomplishments and memories that were made with this organization,” Killorn wrote on social media. “I am so proud of these memories and they will last forever.”

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    Those memories may seem a bit distant for all parties, however, since the Bolts are clinging to the final wild card spot in the East. Among teams currently occupying a playoff position, only the New York Islanders have a worse goal differential than Tampa Bay.

    Winger Nikita Kucherov sits atop the NHL scoring leaderboard, continuing to fend off a surge from Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, who has outscored Kucherov by two points since Nov. 1 and by eight since Dec. 1.

    Ducks at Lightning

    When: 4 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla.

    How to watch: Bally Sports SoCal

    ​ Orange County Register