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Ducks need one point to clinch playoff berth

Kesler, Despres out for Anaheim; Bozak returns for Toronto

by Mike Brophy / NHL.com Correspondent

DUCKS (40-23-9) at MAPLE LEAFS (26-35-11)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; PRIME, FS-SD, SNO, NHL-TV

TORONTO - The Anaheim Ducks can clinch a Stanley Cup Playoffs spot with a point against the Toronto Maple Leafs when the two clubs meet at Air Canada on Thursday, but their task will be a little tougher without Ryan Kesler.

The Ducks No. 1 center left the team to return home. Coach Bruce Boudreau said Kesler's departure from the team is not injury-related.

"He had to go home on an emergency," Boudreau said.

Anaheim also will be without defenseman Simon Despres, who also was sent home by the Ducks for further evaluation.

Despres missed 42 games earlier this season with a concussion.

"He got hit last game and he wasn't feeling right," Boudreau said. "With his history, we wanted to make sure that he's completely better before he plays.

The Ducks, in second place in the Pacific Division, will secure a playoff spot if they gain a point against the Maple Leafs or if the Arizona Coyotes lose against the Dallas Stars later Friday.

Shawn Horcoff, who will play his 1,000th NHL game on Thursday, likely will center Anaheim's second line between Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg. Horcoff said he's too concerned about helping his team win to spend a lot of time thinking about making it to 1,000 NHL games.

"I think it will mean a lot more when my career is over," Horcoff said. "You think a little bit about it, obviously as it gets closer, but it's a huge honor. It is such a privilege to play in the NHL and to be able to play for so long is not something you think about when you are a kid. A lot of hard work has gone into it."

Horcoff, 37, has 507 points (186 goals, 321 assists) in 999 NHL games. He was drafted in the fourth round (No. 99) in 1998 by the Edmonton Oilers.

The Maple Leafs will welcome back center Tyler Bozak who missed 21 games with a concussion. Bozak will skate on a line with Josh Leivo and Connor Brown, call-ups from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. Neither player was with the Maple Leafs when Bozak was injured.

"I feel good," said Bozak, who has five goals and six assists in seven career games against Anaheim. "It'll be fun. I'm excited to get back out there. It's nice to be ready, and hopefully I don't hold the kids back too much."

The Maple Leafs are 7-0-1 against the Ducks in their past eight home games and coach Mike Babcock is hoping the return of Bozak will give the team a boost. Toronto is 4-1-0 in its past five games and 3-1-0 in its six-game homestand.

"Bozie is a really good player for us and he just needs to get some reps and get going again," Babcock said.

Here are the projected lineups:

DUCKS

Brandon Pirri - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Jamie McGinn  - Rickard Rakell  - Mike Santorelli

Andrew Cogliano - Shawn Horcoff - Jakob Silfverberg

Nick Ritchie  - Nate Thompson  Ryan Garbutt

Cam Fowler  - Clayton Stoner

Hampus Lindholm  - Josh Manson

Korbinian Holzer  - Kevin Bieksa

Frederik Andersen

John Gibson

Injured: David Perron (shoulder), Chris Stewart  (jaw), Sami Vatanen  (upper body), Simon Despres (undisclosed)

Scratched: Shea Theodore

MAPLE LEAFS

Michael Grabner  - Nazem Kadri  - Milan Michalek
Zach Hyman - William Nylander - PA Parenteau
Colin Greening  - Brooks Laich - Ben Smith

Josh Leivo - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown  

Morgan Rielly  - Martin Marincin   
Jake Gardiner  - Connor Carrick   
Rinat ValievFrank Corrado

Garret Sparks

Jonathan Bernier  
Injured: Nikita Soshnikov (lower body), Leo Komarov (lower body), Stephane Robidas  (lower body), James van Riemsdyk  (fractured foot), Joffrey Lupul  (sports hernia surgery), Byron Froese  (lower body), Matt Hunwick  (sports hernia), Brad Boyes  (shoulder), Viktor Loov (upper body), Peter Holland (upper body).

Scratched: None

Status report: The Maple Leafs sent center Frederik Gauthier to the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday. Gauthier, the Maple Leafs first-round pick (No. 21) in 2013, played two NHL games and received solid reviews from Babcock. … Bernier skipped practice on Friday after being bumped in Tuesday's game against the Calgary Flames, but will back up Sparks. … The Ducks recalled defenseman Shea Theodore from San Diego of the AHL on Wednesday.

Who's hot: Cogliano has assists in his past three games and six points in his past five games. Perry has two goals and two assists in five games. Silfverberg has six goals and two assists in five games. … Parenteau has two goals and three assists in five games. Nylander has two goals and three assists in two games.

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