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Ducks are trying to get healthy for playoff series with Predators

It is unclear when Ducks center Rickard Rakell, shown in a March 14 photo, will be able to play his next game.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

General Manager Bob Murray sounded as if he was going over a grocery list when he gave updates on the Ducks injuries.

There are so many that the players could fill an entire aisle, but some of them might be on display for the first-round playoff series against the Nashville Predators.

Center Rickard Rakell, left wing David Perron and defenseman Kevin Bieksa are probable at some point in the series that begins Friday at Honda Center, Murray said.

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Rakell and Perron are recovering from an appendectomy and a separated shoulder, respectively, and Bieksa from an upper-body injury.

Forward Brandon Pirri is also probable for the series but is farther away after he “got whacked in the head” this month, Murray said. Defenseman Clayton Stoner was expected to be evaluated for an issue that Murray said “could be bad, could be not so bad,” and defenseman Korbinian Holzer has a lower-body issue but is “definitely probable.”

In other words, there are a lot of moving parts in Anaheim.

“That’s part of playoff hockey,” Murray said. “You try and get as many people as possible ready to play in the playoffs, because you’re going to need a lot to get there.”

The Ducks limped to the finish line and sent center Ryan Kesler and goaltender John Gibson home before the regular-season finale Sunday. Murray said there was nothing major going on with the two, and that defenseman Sami Vatanen (illness) is fine.

It was a testament to Kesler’s mentality and the Ducks’ pursuit of their fourth consecutive Pacific Division title that the center scoffed at being sent home.

“He’s a warrior,” Murray said. “He played so hard. I told him after the game in Colorado that he was going home. He didn’t like it. But I sent him home.”

The snowball of injuries arrived as the Ducks tried to taper for the postseason, and they still finished 3-1-1 — with players often slotted out of their normal roles — to win the division.

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“We’re hoping this week can kind of heal some wounds and get some guys back in the lineup before Game 1,” Ryan Getzlaf said. “If not, our depth we have will have to show through.”

The Ducks need Rakell to help counter Nashville’s depth at center. Rakell’s emergence this season allowed them to split up Getzlaf and Perry. Perry had been on an effective line with Rakell and Jamie McGinn.

“They’re really strong down the middle,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Nashville. “We think with Getzlaf, Kesler and [Nate] Thompson [and possibly Rakell], we feel we’re very strong down the middle. It’ll be a very interesting contest there.”

Standing down

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Murray summed up his angst over his team’s first-half struggles when asked how close he came to firing Boudreau.

“I came close to doing lots of things,” Murray said. “You always feel, ‘I got us into this mess. How do I get us out of it?’ Sometimes it’s best to do very little, and that’s what was done.”

Murray made trades for Perron, Pirri and McGinn, but there was no drastic shakeup on the ice or on the bench. It was a shrewd nonmove.

The division title capped an eventful season for the Ducks, who had to climb from a 1-7-2 start and rock bottom-loss to the New York Rangers on Dec. 22 that left them 12-15-6.

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The Ducks’ 34-10-5 record since Christmas was the best in the NHL. They trailed the Kings for first place by 16 points Jan. 12 and are the first team to erase such a deficit at the halfway point since New Jersey in 2005-06.

“It was a long, long year,” Murray said. “Give credit to the players and coaching staff — they bought into a way to win when things were going bad.”

Follow Curtis Zupke on Twitter @CurtisZupke


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