By Kyle Shohara
All signs point to defenseman Simon Despres making his long-awaited return to the lineup tonight, as the Ducks close out their abbreviated road trip in Boston. The 24-year-old has been out of the lineup since suffering a concussion as the result of a high hit from Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie in an Oct. 16 game at Honda Center.
Despres played four games with the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League over the past week in a long-term injury conditioning loan, earning a goal and an assist with six penalty minutes.
He took line rushes with Sami Vatanen yesterday at practice that also had Shea Theodore paired with Kevin Bieksa and Hampus Lindholm skating with Josh Manson.
“I'm definitely happy to be able to help the team win,” Despres said earlier today. “I'm happy to be able to play hockey again. I'll just keep it simple at the start of the game, get a feel for the speed of the game and the contact, physicality and the strengths of the big players in the NHL and go from there.”
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau wants Despres to stay within himself, meaning he doesn’t want him straying away from his game.
“He’s a big, strong-bodied guy who can play lots of minutes,” said Boudreau. “What I’m expecting from him today is just a simple game…get his feet [under him] and do the right things.”
Ducks fans will have to wait until after the All-Star break for the return of defenseman Cam Fowler, who has been practicing with the team. Fowler suffered a sprained left knee on Dec. 27 vs. Philadelphia, and says he wants to make sure he returns at 100 percent.
“Sure, it’d be nice to get a game in,” Fowler said to the Orange County Register. “But you have to factor a lot of different things in. I don’t want to put myself at any more risk. I don’t want to put the team in a tough spot. Not that I would, but with the break coming up, we can use that to our advantage to get no-doubts, 100-percent ready. We’re going to need our team healthy because we’ve got a big playoff push coming up. I want to make sure I’m ready for that.”
Frederik Andersen is expected to get the start in net for Anaheim. Andersen last appeared in a game 11 days ago, a 22-save performance in Anaheim's 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars at Honda Center. Andersen has won his past two games.
FAMILIAR FACE, DIFFERENT PLACE
Long-time Ducks left wing Matt Beleskey is halfway through his first season with Boston after signing a five-year contract with the Bruins on July 1. Beleskey, who went by the nickname “Skee” here in Anaheim, has eight goals, 22 points and a plus-6 rating in 46 games with the Bruins this season.
“It’s going to be fun,” Beleskey said. “Definitely one I had circled on the calendar. This is a big two points for us heading into the break.”
“He’s a physical player, he plays strong, he cares -- he does all of those good things that you need to do to win,” said Boudreau.
"Skee’s a great kid," said Ryan Getzlaf. "I’ve known him for a long time. As a person, he’s an awesome guy. We miss him.”
HORCOFF SUSPENDED 20 GAMES
Earlier today, the National Hockey League announced that Ducks left wing Shawn Horcoff has been suspended for 20 games, without pay, for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the suspension is accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment.
For more information, including statements from Horcoff and Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray, click here.