Teams that are great are teams that can sustain the injury bug and still win games. After only a week into the regular season, some teams in the Western Conference have already suffered significant losses. This week’s Wild Wild West looks at who is injured and which teams are able to weather the storm.
Teams win games because of the depth of their roster. Everyone remembers last season when Detroit had lost 164 man games to injury by Christmas. Andreas Lilja didn’t even start the 2009-10 season, having been out of the lineup since the February prior when Lilja fought Nashville’s Shea Weber and suffered a concussion. In the first month of last season, Johan Franzen tore his left ACL. Valtteri Filppula broke his wrist. Jason Williams suffered a broken right fibula. Niklas Kronwall sprained his MCL as the result of a knee on knee hit by Montreal’s George Laroques. Dan Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg had separated shoulders, and Jonathan Ericsson had a bone bruise on his left knee. Somehow, the Red Wings survived and when the injured players returned in January (all with the exceptions of Lilja and Franzen), Detroit made a fantastic run down the stretch to finish 5th in the Western Conference.
Weber vs. Lilja:
After a full week of play, only two teams remain undefeated, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars. Neither team has started the season with many injuries to report. Brett Lebda is on injured reserve for Toronto. Dallas rookie Jamie Benn missed Saturday’s game with concussion-like symptoms.
Other than Dallas and Toronto, there is only one other team, the Nashville Predators, who have yet to lose in regulation. Nashville, unlike the other two teams, have lost 14 man games to injury in their first 4 games, including starting goaltender Pekka Rinne and two members of the Predators top line, Matthew Lombardi and Martin Erat. Jamie Lundmark has been on injured reserve since the preseason and Sergei Kostitsyn missed two games with a broken toe. The injury woes of the Predators continue to mount as Marcel Goc left Saturday’s game after a nasty hit from behind by Washington’s Niklas Backstrom.
Despite the injuries early on, Nashville keeps picking up points. Anders Lindback, a goaltender who had never played a game in North America, stepped up in goal. Nashville’s second line, Cal O’Reilly centering Steve Sullivan and Patric Hornqvist took control of the offense. And Nashville’s defense remained, well, Nashville’s defense.
You don’t make the post season on a week of solid play, but in the Western Conference, making up spots in the standings is very difficult to do with such parity between most teams.
Let’s take a look:
The Ducks got off to a tough start to the season, losing their first three in a row, all to Central Division teams. Things have started to look up for the Ducks. As for injuries, Anaheim started the season without Joffrey Lupul (back surgery) and Jason Jaffray (knee surgery). During their first game at Detroit, defenseman Andy Sutton left the game with an injury and had to have thumb surgery. Sunday night, Phoenix captain Shane Doan hit defenseman Cam Fowler into the board and the rookie had to leave the game and did not return. It is not yet known the extent of his injury. The Ducks have a 2-3-1 record.
No other team has battled the injuries early on like the Flames. Seven roster players are unable to play, 2 are out indefinitely. Daymond Langkow is out with a broken vertebrae. Ryan Stone and Ales Kotalik have sustained knee injuries. David Moss and Adam Pardy are out with shoulder injuries and Raitis Ivanans and Rene Bourque are both questionable for the Flames game on Tuesday against the Predators. The Flames are 2-2 which is not necessarily a bad start to the season, but the pressure on the Flames started out huge after barely missing the post season last year and going a perfect 7-0 in the preseason.
Any injury is going to be huge for the Blackhawks since they are already 10 men short from their Stanley Cup winning roster a year ago. Only Brien Campbell is out for Chicago and is expected to miss at least a month with a sprained knee. Chicago has started the year with a 3-2-1 record.
Peter Mueller suffered a concussion during the preseason. David Koci is out with a broken jaw and Brandon Yip is questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Rangers with a strained groin. The Avs start the season with a 3-2 record.
Andy Murray and Jared Boll are on injured reserve for the Blue Jackets. Anton Stralman and Mike Commodore are questionable for Wednesday’s game against Anaheim. Stralman has an undisclosed upper body injury and Commodore has a chip fracture in his left hand. After 4 games, Columbus is 2-2.
Jamie Benn has concussion-like symptoms. The healthy Dallas Stars are undefeated at 4-0.
For the second year in a row, injuries have hit Detroit early. It will be interesting to see how the Red Wings cope as missed man games start to build up since the team is one of the older in the league. Kris Draper is out with a torn groin. Brian Rafalski is expected to miss a month with arthroscopic knee surgery. Jonathon Ericsson is out with back spasms. Johan Franzen is questionable for Tuesday with a head injury and Justin Abdelkader is out with bruised ribs. Detroit has started strong with a 3-1-1 record.
Only Jean-Francois Jacques is missing from the Oilers lineup, recently undergoing back surgery. The Oilers are 2-2 after 4 games.
Matt Greene and Scott Parse are both out of the Kings lineup. Greene had to have surgery on his left shoulder and Parse has a groin injury. The Kings are 3-1 after their first week of action.
After 4 games, the Wild are acting like it is Christmas and nothing has gone right all season. Sunday morning the Wild had a practice where coach Todd Richards yelled at the players for their poor play. James Sheppard is out indefinitely with left knee surgery. Josh Harding was lost during the preseason with a torn ACL. He was quickly replaced by Jose Theodore. Pierre-Marc Bouchard is out with a concussion and the latest to go down for the Wild was Brent Burns who left Saturday’s game against Columbus with a foot injury. Burns is questionable for Tuesday’s game against Vancouver. The Wild has started the season 1-2-1.
Nashville has played without Pekka Rinne, Martin Erat, Matthew Lombardi, Sergei Kostitsyn and Jamie Lundmark. Kostitsyn has returned to play and Rinne will return to play on Tuesday against Calgary. Erat is a maybe for Tuesday night. But the bad news for Nashville is once they got one player back another goes down with Marcel Goc leaving Saturday night’s game against the Capitals with an undisclosed injury after a hit from behind. Nashville started the season 3-0-1.
Ray Whitney is out for the Yotes. He has an undisclosed upper body injury. Phoenix has a 1-2-1 record.
Jamal Mayers and Derek Joslin are out. Joslin has an upper body injury and Mayers is out with an arm injury. San Jose is 1-1-1 after 3 games.
Cam Janssen is out with a concussion. Vladmir Sobotka had shoulder injury and Nikita Nikitin has a broken right wrist. St. Louis is 2-1-1 on the season.
The Canucks are without a couple of key players. Alex Burrows had left shoulder surgery before the season began and is out indefinitely. Sami Salo has surgery on his right achilles and is also out indefinitely. Alexandre Bolduc has a high ankle sprain and Keith Ballard is also out with a concussion. Vancouver is 2-2-1 on the season.
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