Vancouver and Chicago are as injury-ridden as Detroit and Nashville are injury-free. Both teams have big names out (possibly for the remainder of the season), and considering they hate the crap out of one another and could meet somewhere in the playoffs, this could get capital U ugly.
Last regular season game: April 7th against the Red Wings
Daniel Carcillo (LW): Out since January 2nd – Knee
Carcillo is done for the season. He had an ACL repair on his left knee in January, so that’s a solid four to six month recovery. Again, the ACL is the big important ligament that connects your upper leg to your lower leg and keeps your knee from basically doing whatever the hell it wants. Normal people can get along just fine for a while with an ACL tear, but anyone with any desire to twist (or, you know, play hockey) is going to need that bad boy fixed. He’s looking at about a month on crutches and in a knee brace, and several months of physical therapy aka awful, awful torture. He should be back for training camp in the fall. Normally this is where I’d point out that he blew out his knee while delivering a hit for which he was suspended seven games, but I’m above that sort of thing, so I won’t do it.
Sami Lepisto (D): Out since March 7th – Leg
Poor, poor Sami Lepisto can’t catch a break. He was a healthy scratch essentially forever, and when he finally got a chance to play David Perron fell on his leg in early March and knocked him back out of the lineup. The injury hasn’t really been specified, but Quenneville said it wasn’t going to be a surgical fix. Sami is back to skating as of late last week, and he’s been making noises about coming back before the end of the season. It remains to be seen whether that’s back on the ice or back to the press box. Poor Sami.
Steve Montador (D): Out since March 28th(ish) – Concussion
Montador’s luck may actually be worse than Lepisto’s. He missed two months after a concussion in early February (or maybe not, because he’s been a little pissy about confirming or denying it), came back for 4:20 against the Devils last Tuesday, took an elbow to the head, and now he’s out indefinitely. Honestly I’d probably be a little pissy too if I had a concussion. I wouldn’t expect to see him back this season.
Jonathan Toews (C): Out since February 20th – Concussion
Captain Serious is also Captain Mysterious, as he nears a return from a concussion that happened at some unspecified time in February. Speculation is that it was in a February 10th game against the Sharks, but the sharp kids in the room have probably already realized he kept playing until February 19th. He also managed to wreck his car February 23rd by driving it into a bridge support, which gave brilliant medical minds (ie. twitter) a chance to further speculate on where he was in his recovery, how appropriate it was for him to be driving, etc. Newsflash: Toews is an adult. Therefore he gets to make his own decisions. They may not always be the right ones. Another newsflash: Sometimes NHL players tell their coaches and training staff that they’re feeling better than they actually are (YOU DON’T SAY). Toews tried to skate and work out in mid-March, but it didn’t go well and he went back to resting. Now he’s once again back skating, and has been cleared for contact since early this week. He’s said he may play Thursday night, but it depends on how he feels. Having him back would be one seriously huge big deal for Chicago, assuming he stays recovered for real this time.
Update that’s probably not really an update: Winger Andrew Brunette missed a game with a minor foot issue, but should be back tonight.
Last regular season game: April 7th against the Oilers
Keith Ballard (D): Out since February 8th – Concussion
Ballard is one in a line of players with concussions who are trying something new and disturbing. Get concussed, come back and try to play anyway. He was injured February 5th in a game against the Avs, and yet played in the next game against Nashville. The current concussion protocols (hey look, I wrote about those) require that when a player is injured in a manner suspicious for concussion, he has to be evaluated by a physician and pass certain tests before he’s allowed to play again. In fairness, after the Colorado game Ballard says he just had a bit of a sore neck. It wasn’t until after the Nashville game that he started feeling truly awful with the classic concussion nastiness of headaches and nausea. The moral of the story is that you can write all the protocols you want, and concussions will do their best to completely mess with you anyway. Ballard is skating and doing light workouts now, but speculating as to whether he’ll be ready for the playoffs is a complete crapshoot.
I can’t stop here without addressing the speculation that Ballard’s injury is fake, concocted with the purpose of putting him on IR to free up his salary at the trade deadline. Let’s look at how many people would have to be involved in a lie that spectacular: Ballard, his family, Alain Vigneault, Mike Gillis, the team trainer, one or more doctors, the rest of the coaching staff, and all of the Vancouver Canucks. They all have to get their stories straight, and nobody can blab to anyone. Not only that, but the whole organization has to enter into this massive lie with the understanding that if they get caught (because any one of at least a hundred people can’t keep their mouth shut) there will be an NHL, NHLPA, and media shitstorm the likes of which the world has never seen. Sorry, I’m not buying it.
Kevin Bieksa (D): Out since March 27th, but HE’S TOTALLY NOT HURT, OKAY?
Bieksa has missed four games for what he insists is “maintenance”. He’s also said he almost feels back to normal. Does maintenance make you feel not normal? And what of this limp he supposedly has? For whatever reason Bieksa needs a few games off, and he doesn’t want to talk about it, and that’s fine. If this is maintenance, then there’s no reason he shouldn’t be back for the playoffs. So there.
Steve Pinizzotto (RW): Out since September 26th – Shoulder
It’s possible that even Blackhawks fans may be capable of feeling bad for poor old Steve Pinizzotto, a guy who came from the Caps organization by way of the Hershey Bears last summer. He was hoping to make Vancouver’s fourth line for his first-ever season in the NHL at the ripe old age of 27. Then he dislocated his shoulder in a pre-season game. Then he reinjured it while practicing for his return to the ice. Then he had surgery. Then his season (which never actually started) ended. He’s not going to be back for the playoffs. Hopefully he’ll get a shot next year. Poor guy.
Aaron Rome (D): Out since March 25th – Knee
Rome “tweaked” his knee in a March 24th game against the Avs. Whatever a “tweak” is, it’s not very serious. “He’ll be re-evaluated” was followed up by “He’ll miss seven to ten days”, which I interpret as meaning that whatever imaging they had done (probably an MRI, which is great for looking at soft tissues like knee ligaments) didn’t show anything serious. No reason he shouldn’t be back for the playoffs.
Daniel Sedin (LW): Out since March 22nd – Concussion
The Canucks have played some pretty decent hockey since losing Daniel Sedin to a concussion administered by Dunan Keith and his pointy elbow on March 21st. Sedin is doing light workouts now, and Mike Gillis has said he should be ready for the playoffs. I’m currently making plans to fly to Vancouver so Mike Gillis can teach me the intricacies of predicting concussion outcomes, because nobody else currently has a reliable way of doing it. Mostly because it’s completely impossible. I doubt Sedin will be back in the regular season (seriously, why bother?), and although nobody can predict with any amount of certainty when he’ll be back (not even Mike Gillis), the fact that he’s working out is a good sign.
Aaron Volpatti (LW): Out since December 2nd – Shoulder
In case you were wondering, Volpatti has a higher pain tolerance than you do. He had shoulder surgery in early December to repair a torn labrum. That’s the same thing Taylor Hall is having done, and if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that a labrum repair is a four to six month recovery. Rick Bowness has said that Volpatti could be back for the playoffs, and that impresses the crap out of me. The labrum is the little rim of cartilage on the socket part of the shoulder joint that stabilizes the head of the humerus (upper arm bone). It deepens the socket, and is the point of attachment for some pretty important things – ligaments that hold the shoulder joint together, and the tendon that’s attached to the biceps muscle. Obviously if you disrupt the labrum or its attachments you’re left with an extemely unstable (and weak) joint. The repair can range from simply trimming frayed edges from the labrum to reattaching it to the surrounding bone to reconstructing parts of it. The recovery is a nightmare, with a month in complete immobilization followed by a very slow return to strengthening exercises. Four months in and Volpatti might be ready to come back for the post-season? Yeah, that’s impressive.
Where the Canucks can likely expect to have everyone but Pinizzotto back for the playoffs, the Blackhawks are slightly less fortunate. They’ll have to do without Carcillo and Montador, but having Toews back in the lineup should lessen the sting by approximately a whole damn lot. Oh, and Sami Lepisto? He’s probably not too upset that Montador is done, because that may be what gets him out of the press box and onto the ice. In the playoffs that’s supposedly kind of a big deal.