While Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau remained mum about Horcoff on Friday, the first day he is eligible to return from a 20-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, the veteran forward remained on the ice following a voluntary morning skate at Scottrade Center, a strong indication that he will sit out Friday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues.
Boudreau ruled Vatanen out with an upper-body injury two days after the defenseman left the ice in the first period in Denver following contact with a Colorado Avalanche player that Boudreau assessed as incidental.
It will be the first game missed this season by Vatanen, who has nine goals and 37 points.
The absence will allow Korbinian Holzer to step into Friday’s lineup and see his first action with the Ducks since Jan. 23. Holzer’s time away included a stint with the minor-league San Diego Gulls Feb. 17-28.
“I’m excited to come back and play,” Holzer said. “You have to have a positive mind-set [during a layoff] … try to be better every practice and push the other guys to get better. That’s how you stay ready.”
He returns against a Blues team that has won four consecutive games, including Wednesday’s shootout victory over the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks, and will strive to impose its physicality.
“That’s kind of my game, too. I like getting physical,” Holzer said. “I know what to expect. I have to be ready right away. The focus is to play solid.”
ANDERSEN IN: Following Boudreau’s two-games-on, two-games-off rotation with goalies Frederik Andersen and John Gubson, Andersen was first off the ice at Friday’s morning practice and should start against the Blues.
Andersen (18-8-6 with a 2.21 goals-against average) is 13-0-2 since a Dec. 21 loss at the New York Islanders. His 1.79 goals-against average and .936 save percentage since Christmas is the NHL’s best.
HIGHER STANDARD SOUGHT: Boudreau has cautioned his team that losing streaks often follow winning streaks, so Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said his team is focused on improving after Wednesday’s 3-0 loss at Colorado.
The loss ended the Ducks’ 12-0-2 streak and dropped them out of the Pacific Division lead, one point behind the Kings.
Boudreau said he saw “red flags” coming a few games before the loss, when the Ducks allowed odd-man rushes that set up two late second-period goals that all but iced the outcome.
“Just how easily we gave up goals, I think that’s something we’ve been better at,” Cogliano said. “We all know what we need to do, so this is an important game -- tough team, their building -- to get back what we were doing. Whoever competes hardest, wins those little battles, will win. We know what we’re up against.”