Two playoff spots are already locked up – the Rangers in the East and the Blues in the West. With under a month left to play in the regular season and the playoffs approaching quickly, injuries begin to take on a whole new significance. Backup goalies are suddenly playing every day, AHL guys are getting a shot at the big leagues, and Marty Turco gets signed. As the end of the regular season approches and teams start to clinch, I’ll be looking at the injuries on each team, and what kind of playoff implications they could have. Marty Turco’s hurt feelings will sadly not be a part of this series.
New York Rangers
Last regular season game: Saturday, April 7th vs the Capitals.
The Rangers are in fairly good shape at this point with minimal injuries to the big names on the team.
Artem Anisimov (C): Out since 3/15 – bruised shoulder
Anisimov took a hard hit into the boards last week from Pittsburgh’s Joe Vitale, and left the game favouring his left shoulder. He’s back skating as of Monday morning and has said it’s not separated, just bruised. I’d expect to see him back fairly soon.
Steve Eminger (D): Out since 3/20 – mystery illness
Apparently Eminger is “banged up”. Other possibilities for what’s wrong with Eminger: “Feeling kinda cruddy”, “has an owie”, and “bad hair day”. Since nobody seems to know what’s actually wrong with him, who knows when he’ll be back. He missed some time this season with a separated shoulder, so could this be related? Possibly. Or maybe he has a blister on his heel. Or ragweed allergies. Or really bad dandruff. Whatever. I’m done here.
Michael Sauer (D): Out since 12/14/11 – concussion
Sauer has been out since getting Phaneuf’d in early December. He tried skating with the team in late January but was still having post-concussive issues (translation: He felt like crap), so he went back to no activity. I’d be surprised if we saw him back for the playoffs, considering he’s not practicing with the team yet.
Chad Kolarik (AHL bonus): Out since training camp – knee
Kolarik plays for the Connecticut Whale, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. To be more precise, Kolarik would be playing for the Whale if his left knee worked. He tore his ACL in training camp, a particularly disappointing injury for a guy who had hoped to crack the Rangers lineup this year.
A quick knee refresher: The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) connects your femur (upper leg) to your tibia (lower leg). You can live with an obliterated ACL, but not if you’re a hockey player. It keeps your lower leg from sliding forward with relation to the femur, and also keeps it from rotating in too far. To give you an idea of how gross that can be, one of the tests for a torn ACL is the anterior drawer test, which is pretty brutal/gross. You lie on your back with your leg bent. Some jerk doctor grabs your lower leg just under your knee and pulls on it. If your ACL is torn your lower leg slides out like a drawer. Rumour has it this feels pretty terrible. An ACL repair has about a six month recovery period, so Kolarik could conceivably be back this season to play for the Whale, currently holding down first place in the AHL’s northeast division.
St. Louis Blues
Last regular season game: Saturday April 7th vs the Stars
The Blues have a fair number of players out, but they’ve also had a three-day break between games and look likely to get several players back within the next few days.
Jason Arnott (C): Out since 3/14 – banged up
Yes, that’s actually what’s wrong with him, because Ken Hitchcock said so. This isn’t an Eminger-style “undisclosed”, this is a guy who’s sore and needed some time off. Arnott played last week against the Blackhawks, but apparently looked sad and pathetic enough that Hitchcock pulled him for an unspecified amount of time to recuperate. He’s back to skating with the team, and may be back tonight versus the Ducks.
David Backes (C): Out since 3/18 – foot
Blocking shots with your feet may keep pucks out of the net, but it also keeps players off the ice. Backes stopped a shot with his left foot, and is now day to day with a bruise. There’s no fracture, and he’s traveling with the team for an upcoming stretch of west coast games. Yes, I’m including Phoenix as part of the west coast (but don’t worry, nobody there likes hockey so they won’t notice). I’d expect him to be back soon. If not on this road trip, then shortly thereafter.
Matt D’Agostini (RW): Out since 2/12 – concussion
The Blues lost D’Agostini to the IR in early February when he discovered that Ottawa’s Jared Cowen is kind of gigantic and hits kind of hard. He tried to work out a few weeks after the initial injury with little success, but is now back on the ice and possibly traveling with the team out west. I’m not going to speculate on when he might return to the lineup because concussions are jerks and don’t play fair.
Kent Huskins (D): Actually not hurt at the moment, but previously pretty darn hurt.
Huskins missed November through January after a fractured ankle bought him a surgical repair. Then he missed five games this month with a bruised hand, but was back in the lineup Saturday. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be fine for the rest of the season and playoffs barring any sort of shot-blocking catastrophe (or standing too close to someone like Rick DiPietro or Tim Connolly, whose injury issues are so awful they’re probably contagious).
Jamie Langenbrunner (RW): Not hurt, actually quite the badass.
Langenbrunner broke his foot and was out for less than a month. Not bad for a guy old enough to be Taylor Hall’s dad. Oh, and Langenbrunnner’s mom didn’t make any statements to the press on his behalf, which is always nice when you’re a grown-ass man.
Roman Polak (D): Out since 3/17 – knee (sort of)
I’d like to begin by nominating Polak for one of the worst facial hair decisions in Blues history. Hitchcock pulled him from practice Saturday morning because he had a sore knee, but he still played against the Lightning that night. He’s skating, so I’d expect to see him in Anaheim on Wednesday night. Hopefully his awful, awful goatee will not be traveling with the team.
Kris Russell (D): Out since 2/24 – concussion
For some reason it really bugs me when people refer to Nashville as Smashville. It probably bugs Kris Russell even more, since that’s where he got his concussion. You can add him to the list of players possibly coming back in the next few games since he’s skating and traveling. Unfortunately he’s also on the concussions suck list, so I won’t commit to that. Maybe he’s back, maybe he’s not. Stupid concussions.
Alex Steen (LW): Out since 12/30 – concussion
Steen hasn’t played since late December due to post-concussive symptoms from an injury that’s thought to have occurred in a game against the Stars December 26th. He tried skating in February but had to stop because of exertion-related vision problems (did I mention concussions SUCK?). He traveled to California to try hyperbaric therapy, which isn’t in the usual treatment regimen. Interestingly enough, this is something both Andy McDonald and Paul Kariya also tried.
Hyperbaric therapy involves getting into a big tube which is then pressurized. The point is that it increases the partial pressure of oxygen in the tissues (a fancy way of saying it crams more oxygen in there). This is a huge benefit for patients with carbon monoxide poisoning, dive injuries (decompression sickness aka the bends), burns, skin grafts, and an assortment of other conditions, none of which are concussions according to health insurance companies (which, as we all know, get to make all the rules)*. Current evidence about the effectiveness of hyperbaric therapy for brain injury is inconclusive (or conclusive, depending on who you ask – YAY SCIENCE!), but there’s plenty of ongoing research in this area.
Steen is currently skating and traveling. Again, no speculation from me about when he’ll be back (but maybe this week) (but maybe not).
*Don’t get me started.
The Take-Home Message
Carlo Colaiacovo isn’t on this list, which is absolutely amazing. I’d also like to remind everyone that he and Alex Steen came from Toronto in exchange for Lee Stempniak, who majored in economics at Dartmouth. That’s completely unrelated, but too weird not to mention.