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Kessel demoted to fourth line by Leafs, who are without Lupul for next week @NHLdotcom

TORONTO - Phil Kessel has been demoted to the fourth line as changes continue to swirl around the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs.

Kessel, who played under 13 minutes in Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers, skated with David Booth and Trevor Smith at practice while Richard Panik was in his customary top-line spot alongside James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak.

Interim coach Peter Horachek said he "wasn't very happy" with Kessel's play against New York but repeatedly stated that there are issues with the entire team, not just the star winger.

Kessel, who did not speak to reporters after being demoted during the Rangers game, again declined to talk Wednesday afternoon.

Winger Joffrey Lupul aggravated a lower-body injury and will be out a week, according to Horachek, who offered no real timeline for Lupul's return.

Lupul recently missed 11 games with the injury and had been playing through it before the team decided to shut him down.

Defenceman Cody Franson, Toronto's most valuable trade chip ahead of the March 2 deadline, did not practise but was having a maintenance day, Horachek said.

Franson conceded Tuesday night that Franson was banged up but didn't reveal the nature of his injuries.

The Leafs visit the New York Islanders on Thursday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday before returning home to face the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

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