The past week in the NHL featured what many of us puck heads have come to expect in a season abbreviated by a lockout. A game that moves faster than any other team sport is only bound to see injuries. Even though in today’s sports landscape, with players conditioning themselves year round, injuries will always be front and center. Add to the fact many of these players didn’t play in other leagues during the lockout as well as only had a week of training camp to prepare for a 48 game sprint to the playoffs.
The Ottawa Senators shocked the hockey world last season, not only did they not finish lastÂ but they made the playoffs as the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.Â This year, Ottawa currently finds themselves in a playoff spot with a 10-6-1 record, but finds themselves hit hardest by the injury bug. Leading scorer from last year Jason Spezza was hurt only 5 games into the season and will miss the rest of the season recovering from back surgery. Last year’s Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson is also out for the season after falling victim to a freak achilles laceration last weekend from controversial Penguins forward Matt Cooke. Also out is arguably the best goaltender and darkhorse candidate for team USA at the Olympics next year Craig Anderson after suffering a leg injury in Thursday night’s win against the Rangers. Ottawa hopes Anderson will only be out for a few days, but still remains without last years leading goal scorer Milan Michalek who has been out since last Thursday with an infamously vague lower body injury.
The Los Angeles Kings had oh so many things go right for them in their dominant run to the Stanley Cup last year. Guy Fieri probably would have called the Kings defense “so money” last spring, but this year they are more deserving of a review similar to the one the Bold Flavor Bad Boy’s New York City restaurant was given earlier this year. Straight up awful. That is mostly in part due to the rash of injuries suffered to shut down defenders Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell, and more recently Alec Martinez. The Kings traded for Keaton Ellerby from the Florida Panthers, but will need more help likely as Matt Greene is out for the year while Mitchell and Martinez nurse themselves back to health.
Despite the season only being a month old, time may be running out for the Philadelphia Flyers, who were dropped by the Panthers 5-2 on Thursday night and find themselves at 8-10-1 and out of a playoff spot. As if that weren’t bad enough, second year forward Matt Read was announced to have suffered torn rib cage muscles and will miss 6 weeks. A key to the Flyers success in recent years, winger and pain in the backside of the opposition Scott Hartnell has been out since last month with a foot injury, but could be back next week as he is currently practicing with the team’s AHL affiliate in Adirondack. Chris Pronger has been out for a year now and seems unlikely to rejoin the team or ever play a game in the NHL again. Another defenseman the Flyers rely on for big minutes is Andrej Meszaros who has been out since last week. Now, more than ever, is the time for the players who are healthy to step up for Philly.
The Phoenix Coyotes have climbed back into a playoff position with a modest 2 game win streak, but still remain without last year’s leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata, who is recovering from a lower body injury suffered last week in a game against Edmonton. Phoenix is also missing defensemen Derek Morris and David Schlemko who are recovering from an upper body injury and shoulder injury respectfully. With Mike Smith, who has also battled injuries this year, back in net, the Yotes can build on their recent success now, but should hope to get healthy soon to compete in a very competitive Western Conference.
The Washington Capitals are dead last in the NHL standings. With a loss against New Jersey after blowing yet another lead, the Caps are in no position to make excuses. However, the Caps are missing two key forwards dearly in Brooks Laich and Marcus Johanssen. These two forwards absence leave a gaping hole in the team’s depth and their return could help spark Alex Ovechkin and an underperforming offense. The Caps are also missing all-star defenseman Mike Green who has been out for a week with a lower body injury.
Must Watch Games For This Weekend:
San Jose Sharks vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Friday 7:30 NHLN)
The Blackhawks will look to add to their record of most consecutive games with a point to start a season (13-0-3) against a struggling Sharks team who they beat at United Center a week ago.
New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Captials (Saturday 11 AM NHLN)
What may go unmentioned is that these two teams entered the league together in 1974. Only the Devils went by a different name and played in a place called Kemper Arena. Yes! That Kemper Arena. The New Jersey Devils and a few overpriced items from Mitchell and Ness are all that remain of the hapless Kansas City Scouts. Oh what could have been… Still, while the Caps may be playing the way they did when they entered the league in 1974 (bad), they still could gain a lot of confidence by going into Newark and taking two points from the Devils in the second leg of a home and home.
Colorado Avalanche vs. LA Kings (Saturday 3:00 NHLN)
Here are two teams that will most likely end up battling for the last few playoff spots which makes this match-up a can’t miss. LA has won its last two games and could be gaining momentum while Colorado looks to build off of a thrilling OT win against St. Louis on Wednesday night. Colorado will also look to take focus off of the ongoing contract situation of RFA Ryan O’Reilly, which took a bizarre turn this week when O’Reilly’s father Bryan, who is a life coach, sent a grammatical disaster of an e-mail, which was later published, to Denver Post writer Adrian Dater. Regardless, these two points matter a whole lot to these teams and they’d both prefer it didn’t go into OT to avoid giving an extra point to a team they will surely be battling for playoff position later in the year.
Nasvhile Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings (Saturday 6:00 NHLN)
Here is a fantastic rivalry that has developed over the past few years. What makes it more interesting is that beloved grinder and pest in Nashville Jordin Tootoo (I wouldn’t make fun of his name if I were you) left for Detroit in the off season. Detroit currently sits at 10th in the Western Conference, but is only 4 points behind 4th place and division rival Nashville. Nashville will certainly have to bring their “A” game to Detroit to expect to leave with a win. Detroit, however, is only 5-4-1 at home and “The Joe” is not nearly the house of horrors it used to be.
Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers (Sunday 2:00 NHLN)
Florida is coming off a huge win in Philadelphia which was something desperately needed. Hot goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom was called up earlier in the week and could be expected to start against the B’s. Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau is coming off of a 4 point night in Philly and it would seem he is becoming more confident in himself as a player in the NHL. Boston (10-2-2) is rolling this year and will have a few days off in Florida after beating Tampa Bay Thursday night. Hopefully they spend their time wisely in the Sunshine State and don’t suffer any bizarre parasailing injuries. Also shoulder pads on sun burnt shoulders would seem like the worst, you guys. A statement game for Florida, but you can be sure Boston would love to sweep the state of Florida.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Sunday 6:30 NBCSN)
Tampa Bay boasts the highest scoring offense with the likes of sniper Steven Stamkos, veterans Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier as well as rookie scoring dynamo Cory Conacher. Pittsburgh? Oh they have two Art Ross trophy winners (NHL leading scorer for season) in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Think some goals will be scored in this one? This game is what I look forward to most this weekend. Two fantastic teams that will certainly be poised to take top seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Early next week I will have a column about one of my favorite goons who was a lightning rod for controversy and played a pivotal role in a Stanley Cup (even if it may have been a terrible one.) We will also take a look at this enforcer’s Hollywood career. No, not just with the Kings.