The list of NHL players who have missed significant time due to injury reads like an all-star team: Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Green, Dan Hamhuis, Chris Pronger, Daniel Alfredsson, Evgeni Malkin, Johan Franzen, Zach Parise, Jonas Hiller, Marc Savard, Taylor Hall and many, many more top players have sat out for large chunks of the season while recovering from various ailments and afflictions.
Whenever a player is injured, a team has to make adjustments. The line up must be changed. The team’s strategy is adjusted to suit the new line up and certain players have to take on new roles. This is especially true when a top player is injured.
Of course, the one injury that loomed over the league larger than any other is Sidney Crosby’s concussion. The Penguins captain hasn’t played since January 5th and his absence has definitely been felt on the team. To make matters worse, Evgeni Malkin has been out of action since February 4th and he won’t return until next season. Malkin also missed several games earlier in the season with other injuries. In addition, the Penguins started the season without Jordan Staal, who did not play until January 1st. On the blue line, Brooks Orpik also missed significant time.
Despite missing a number of regulars, the Penguins remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and are only one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the Atlantic Division lead. Head coach Dan Bylsma has been given a lot of credit for holding the team together despite the injuries and keeping them competitive.
Another coach that deserves recognition for working with an injury-plagued team is Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks. In a situation that is actually quite opposite from that of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vigneault was forced to deal with injuries to several key players on defense rather than offensive stars.
At various points throughout the season the Canucks have lost defensemen, including Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, Alexander Edler, Andrew Alberts and Dan Hamhuis. On offense, Manny Malhotra will definitely be missed as well. Despite this long list of wounded players, the Canucks managed to claim the Presidents’ Trophy and head into the playoffs as a favourite.
Mike Green of the Washington Capitals has been out of action since February 25th. The Capitals are also playing without defensemen Dennis Wideman and Tom Poti. Despite the weakened defensive corps, the Capitals have clinched the Southeast Division and they sit at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The team that is right behind them, the Philadelphia Flyers, have needed to cope with several injuries this season as well. Chris Pronger has been out of the line-up several times with injuries, the most recent being a broken hand that should keep him out until the playoffs. Jody Shelley is also currently missing time due to injury and Ian Laperriere has yet to play this season.
Another contending team that has battled through significant injuries this year is the Detroit Red Wings. Pavel Datsyuk has only played 63 games this season due to a variety of injuries while Johan Franzen, Kris Draper, Mike Modano, Danny Cleary and others have missed time as well. In net, both Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard have been injured this season, yet the Red Wings remain strong contenders.
The defending Stanley Cup Champions have not been spared on the injury front either. Patrick Sharp, Brian Campbell, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa are just a few of the players who have been out of the line-up at various time due to injuries.
Obviously other teams have had to face adversity and injuries to key players this year as well. Anaheim has been without Jonas Hiller for several weeks now. The New Jersey Devils played without Zach Parise for most of the season. The same can be said for the Bruins and Marc Savard. Vincent Lecavalier has been out of Tampa Bay’s line-up a couple of times this season, most recently due to a close call involving a high stick and a cut above his right eye. The list goes on-and-one. Many teams have been forced to step it up in the absence of certain players. The question is, who’s done it the best?