I’m writing to the Predators about their mistreatment of ice girls. This girl wasn’t even given any pants, and she’s forced to skate by Mike Comrie, whose marriage has already descended to the naughty text message stage.

The injury bug is a plagued that’s particularly venomous once we get closer to Valentine’s Day. As you spend money on flowers, chocolates, jewellery, and bad movies, you can also watch your favourite NHL team crumble into a pile of broken bones and strained muscles.

What a wonderful time of the year. If you’re a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, this week began with the potential for disaster. The sick bay in La Belle Province was packed for a brief time, with one significant name remaining on an already long injury list by week’s end.

The news was much worse under the bright Broadway lights.

Headlines and Storylines

The night every player in red-and-white went down

Well, that’s what it seemed like at least. For those who watch hockey at any level regularly, what happened Tuesday night when the Canadiens visited Buffalo caused more than a few fans to check their eyeglass prescriptions. The mind couldn’t believe what the eye was seeing.

Montreal was already feeling the wrath of the injury bug, especially on the back end with both Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges out for the season. Then a night that will forever be known as the Buffalo Beatdown (OK, not really) ended with promising young forward Max Pacioretty leaving in a stretcher against the Sabres, and Mike Cammalleri on the injured reserve and out for a month with a separated shoulder.

Pacioretty was struck in the chest with a James Wisniewski slap shot, an injury that looked serious, but the forward didn’t miss any time and scored three goals during the Habs’ next two games. Jeff Halpern was given the always vague day-to-day tag after being roughed up by Patrick Kaleta. Also sustaining minor injuries against Buffalo that didn’t required any missed time were P.K Subban, Hal Gill, and Scott Gomez, all of whom either shook it off on the bench or returned later in the game.

The New York Rangers–who are currently in seventh and just behind Montreal in the East–may be even more bruised and battered. Brandon Dubinsky, the team’s leading scorer, will miss the next four-to-six weeks with a leg fracture revealed just prior to New York’s 7-0 destruction of Toronto Wednesday night. He joins Ruslan Fedotenko, Alex Frolov, Ryan Callahan, Vinny Prospal, and Erik Christensen on New York’s black and blue brigade.

The maladies of the Canadiens and Rangers this season show that the injury bug isn’t the random sickness it’s assumed to be, and the good karma of one season is a swinging pendulum. Between 2005 and 2008, the Rangers and Habs ranked in the bottom fifth of the NHL in terms of overall man games lost due to injury, losing an average of about 150 games per year. Mixed in with that group are the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils, two other teams decimated by press box visits this season.

The continually ringing bell atop Marc Savard’s shoulders

The plight of Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard is becoming a depressing affair. There is indeed a problem with definitive and consistent headshot enforcement in today’s NHL, a problem initially highlighted by Matt Cooke’s hit on Savard last year that kept him out for 18 regular season games and into the playoffs. It’s also a problem that may cause us to look back of Savard’s career one day very soon, and wonder what could have been.

Savard had his effective seasons, most notably three seasons in the past five years with 85 points or more. Has he been a perennial all-star? Not even close. But in the few times he’s been healthy for long stretches, Savard has shown his tremendous playmaking skills. It’s disappointing then that over a 12-year career Savard has missed 130 games due to injury, and has now sustained his fifth concussion after a hit from Matt Hunwick Saturday night.



Fantasizing about a fantasy draft

The week opened with the naming of the All-Star game captains. Both were worthy choices, with homer Eric Staal being about as predictable as the average ending of Full House (Bob Saget’s moral speeches shaped who I am today). What followed was some good-natured jabbing between Staal and opposing captain Niklas Lidstrom. Then the real jostling began, leading to what will hopefully be an injection of entertainment Friday night into a weekend of festivities that has become stale.

Players promptly sided with their teammates, with Martin St. Louis lobbying for Steven Stamkos to be a first overall pick for the second time in his career, and Team Lidstrom looking at stealing Cam ward away from Team Staal.

Unfortunately, expanding the weekend to include the Headshotapalooza event wasn’t discussed.

Quick hits

  • There were only 12,000 people in attendance  for the Canucks/Avs game Tuesday in Colorado, a sad scene for a game between what was at the time hockey’s best team, and a young, fast, high-octane home side.
  • In his second season, Victor Hedman’s offensive skills are are progressing slowly, but steadily. With 33 games left on the schedule, he’s just two points shy of his total from last year and is on pace for 30 points.
  • Chris Kunitz has already scored three more goals than his total from last season, a year in which he struggled with injuries. He’s scored three goals in his last five games, and may knock on the door of the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career.
  • So far this season, 83 goalies have strapped on the pads and made at least one appearance in the crease. At this point, the bottom of the save percentage standings predictably reflects the goaltending scrap heap, and is littered with names that receive little playing time. There are three glaring exceptions, and two of them play north of the border: Nicholai Knabibulin’s 64th save percentage (.892), Jonas Gustavsson’s 67th (.890), and Dan Ellis with his latest problem at 70th (.887).

Trending Teams

Penthouse

Tampa Bay Lightning: That Steven Stamkos slump sure seems like a distant memory. The All-Star game’s first overall pick (?) has paced Tampa Bay to four straight wins with seven goals and 10 points over his last six games.

The scoring is nice, but that’s never really been a concern for Tampa. The worry has always been in the crease, and that’s where the recently acquired Dwayne Roloson has been a steady backbone, allowing five goals in his last three starts.

Outhouse

Los Angeles Kings: It would be easy to blame Jonathan Quick, and the young netminder is deserving of some finger-pointing. But over the past week the Kings have lost four straight games (going a bit farther back, they’ve dropped six of their last seven), and the offence is largely to blame.

The Kings, a team that ranked ninth in goals per game last year, have scored three of more goals only three times in their last 11 games.

Plays of the week(end)