Nathan Horton, Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky and Sergei Bobrovsky. That’s a lot of core to have on the shelf but the Columbus – oh wait, add Mark Letestu to the IR – Blue Jackets are doing what they – also, James Wisniewski, are you kidding me? – uh, can.
Spirits were high in Columbus this summer after the franchise’s second-ever playoff berth ended with its first-ever post-season victories, even if the Jackets fell to Pittsburgh in the first round. But it seems the only spirits present now in Ohio are phantoms of the operating table, as the Jackets have been killed by injuries throughout the lineup. Along with the players mentioned above, players such as Ryan Murray, Matt Calvert, Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson have also missed time.
On the eve of the new season, I was talking to Boston coach Claude Julien about the importance of Zdeno Chara to his younger defensemen. The behemoth captain naturally gave a boost of confidence to his mates when he was out there and one of the beneficiaries was Torey Krug. The young offensive defenseman had a pretty sweet rookie campaign for the Bruins and Julien expected Krug to have a big opportunity to continue that success this season. Then Chara went down with a knee injury.
Now, Krug has been sidelined with a broken finger that will keep him out of the lineup for two to three weeks. With Kevan Miller also on the shelf and Johnny Boychuk traded to the Islanders, the Bruins defense corps is in dire need of reinforcements. Do they have the right personnel?
The hits – and breaks – just keep on coming for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Nathan Horton’s degenerative back condition may cost him his career. Ryan Murray missed the first three weeks with a lingering knee injury. Boone Jenner broke his hand. Brandon Dubinsky had abdominal surgery. Nick Foligno sustained a stinger in a dangerous collision on the weekend. Matt Calvert landed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. Cam Atkinson got cut across his eyelid and cheek by a skate and needed 40 stitches.
Despite all the maladies piling up, the Jackets and their fans could take solace in the fact they had Sergei Bobrovsky. He was the great equalizer, having posted a 2.27 goals-against average and .925 save percentage across 104 appearances since joining the Blue Jackets in 2012-13. He almost carried a talent-thin team to the playoffs two seasons ago, winning the Vezina Trophy.
For the second straight year, however, ‘Bob’ will miss a meaningful chunk of time. He fractured a finger Monday when a puck hit him during practice. The team hasn’t indicated exactly how it happened. The initial prognosis is just 1-2 weeks, which isn’t too bad at all, but it seems overly optimistic for a goaltender. You need that finger to be tip-top any time pucks fly toward it. The short timetable suggests it’s just a hairline fracture and/or an injury to a non-significant digit (i.e. blocker hand instead of catching hand).
Pittsburgh Penguins sophomore defenseman Olli Maatta heard the words nobody wants to hear at any point in their lives, let alone at barely 20 years of age: doctors discovered a tumor that could be cancerous. Fortunately for the native Finn, the overall diagnosis sounds far less ominous: he’ll have surgery next week to remove the tumor, which is on his thyroid; he’s healthy enough to play until he goes under the knife; and he’s expected to return to action within a month.
“Even if (the tumor) is found to be cancerous, we do not expect that he will need radiation or chemotherapy, and we anticipate a complete recovery,” said Penguins team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas. “In all likelihood, Olli will go on to live a healthy life and this should not affect his ability to play hockey long-term.”
Maatta didn’t seem at all fazed when he spoke with reporters after the announcement, and that’s in part because he first learned about the tumor three weeks ago. He’s already had a physical challenge after undergoing shoulder surgery in May, and although this is an altogether different type of ailment, he appeared ready at a press conference Monday afternoon to move ahead and take this one on: Read more
Nick Foligno is thanking his lucky stars Sunday night. The Blue Jackets right winger escaped serious injury after being taken off the ice on a stretcher due to an unusual collision with linesman Shane Heyer during the third period of Columbus’ game against the L.A. Kings.
Foligno was skating the puck up the ice along the boards and had his head down when he collided at an awkward angle with the lower back area of Heyer, who had jumped up on the boards in an attempt to avoid contact with players. The 26-year-old fell to the ice immediately and laid motionless for several minutes before he was removed from the ice strapped to a spinal board: Read more
(NOTE – This post has been updated twice. See below.)
The Boston Bruins’ blueline took a salary cap-related hit prior to the season with the trading of veteran Johnny Boychuk – and it got another scare with potentially bigger ramifications Thursday when captain Zdeno Chara left the team’s game against the Islanders with an undisclosed injury. His final shift of the game ended with 8:12 remaining in the first period, and Bruins coach Claude Julien offered no update on his condition after Boston’s 3-2 loss to the Isles.
On his last shift Thursday, Chara laid into Isles captain John Tavares with a solid check, but didn’t give any indication he was injured on the play: Read more
After he signed a seven-year, $37.1-million contract with the Blue Jackets in the summer of 2013, right winger Nathan Horton appeared in only 36 games thanks to injuries to his shoulder and abdomen last season. And Tuesday night, there was even worse news coming out of Columbus: the 29-year-old is dealing with a degenerative back injury that might be career ending.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Horton, who has experienced back issues for several years, felt the problem worsen this summer while training in Florida and has been diagnosed with a serious degeneration of the lower back area. He may be out of action for at least this season, if not for good. There is a surgery he can undergo to address it, but it’s viewed as a last resort and offers no guarantee of success.
“He’s in constant pain,” Horton’s agent Paul Krepelka told the Dispatch. “He’s in constant discomfort.”
The majority of Horton’s $5.3-million-per-season salary will be covered by insurance and he can be placed on long term injured reserve to free up cap space with which to replace him. But that’s easier said than done for Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen. Read more
For most NHL teams, losing a burgeoning star on defense like Victor Hedman to injury would be a major, if not catastrophic blow. But if a team (at least, an Eastern Conference team) is equipped to weather the absence of a key cog on the blueline, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the fact they’ll now be without Hedman for at least a handful of games, if not longer thanks to a suspected broken hand he suffered Saturday against Vancouver, the Bolts are still looking as dangerous as many expected they would after their off-season additions.
When Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman signed free agent blueliner Anton Stralman away from the New York Rangers and traded for former Vancouver Canucks d-man Jason Garrison, he turned a group that included Hedman (who demolished career bests in goals and assists last year), veterans Matt Carle and Eric Brewer, and rugged 24-year-old Radko Gudas into arguably the Eastern Conference’s deepest defense corps. And that argument got much stronger after the Bruins dealt Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders. They’re so deep on defense, they made Brewer a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season. (Gudas is a little banged-up himself, but hoped to return to the lineup as soon as Monday.) There’s more than enough talent and balance there to hold the fort until Hedman returns. (And nobody quite knows when that will be just yet. If their worst fears come true and Hedman’s hand is broken, he’s likely looking at a 4-to-6-week recovery period.)
But even if that defense corps weren’t so sturdy even in Hedman’s absence, the Lightning would still be favored to win more games than not because of two main reasons: Read more