The Penguins will be without Sergei Gonchar's cannon from the point until late in the season. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
The NHL pre-season is about many things, the most important being able to avoid injuries. This year a number of big-time injuries have hit big-time players. Below are 10 injuries so far that will have the most impact on their respected teams.
10. Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina – Knee
Arthroscopic surgery cost the Hurricanes’ captain the final 20 games of the season in 2007-08. Now he’s already had surgery to clean up the residual mess. Brind’Amour is one of the best-conditioned players in the game, but at age 38, knee problems are worrisome.
9. Derian Hatcher, Philadelphia – Knee
Hatcher didn’t actually hurt his knee this pre-season, but it was discovered he might have to retire because of it. Hatcher’s best days are far behind him, meaning this injury has an impact because it frees up salary cap room for the Flyers.
8. Antero Niittymaki, Philadelphia – Hip
The Flyers’ backup goaltender had surgery on his ailing hip in September. He is back skating with the team, but hip injuries are nothing to fool around with and it is not yet known if he will be ready to go when the season begins.
7. Raffi Torres, Columbus – Shoulder
Torres was injured in his first NHL action since last December. He was expected to open the season as the Jackets’ second- or third-line right winger, able to crash the boards and lead the troops. He’ll be out until mid-November at the earliest.
6. Erik Johnson, St. Louis – Knee
Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, tore ligaments in his knee during a team golf outing in late September and is gone for the season. The Blues were slated to be bad anyway, but the injury stalls the young defenseman’s growth.
5. Torrey Mitchell, San Jose – Leg
Mitchell broke both bones in his leg during training camp and is out until mid-November at the earliest. The pivot’s injury most likely means Patrick Marleau will begin the season as the second-line center, rather than getting a chance for a fast start playing the wing on Joe Thornton’s line.
4. Sergei Zubov, Dallas – Hip
Zubov underwent arthroscopic surgery on his hip in mid-September and will be out until at least mid-October. Like his compatriot Sergei Gonchar in Pittsburgh, Zubov is an important offensive cog and veteran presence who, at 38 years old, will take longer than normal to get back to full strength.
3. Justin Williams, Carolina – Achilles tendon
Williams was slated to open the season as the Hurricanes’ No. 1 right winger. However, he’ll be out until at least mid-January, meaning the Canes will have to rely more on Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov, who are not exactly the most reliable players in the league.
2. Ryan Whitney, Pittsburgh – Foot
Whitney had corrective surgery on his foot prior to training camp. The injury bothered him most of last season and it was decided to take action sooner rather than later. The Pens’ No. 2 blueliner is out until December.
1. Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh – Shoulder
Gonchar runs the Pens’ power play and is the veteran and offensive leader of an otherwise thin defense corps. He’ll be out four to six months and with colleague Whitney out as well, Pittsburgh is in some real trouble.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on thehockeyenews.com.
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