You’ll need more than two hands to count all the NHL players currently out with broken legs, ankles or feet. If you include “lower body injuries” on IR who may or may not have broken limbs (or no limbs, or a really bad cold, or an upset tummy), you may need to take off your socks and keep on counting.
Did somebody grease the ice?
Shot-blocking – inadvertent or on purpose – is a frequent culprit in the land of broken legs. Boston’s Gregory Campbell was last year’s poster child after a Malkin slapshot to the leg left him with a broken right fibula, on which he notoriously finished a shift on the PK. Fractures (and their aftermath) aren’t always that dramatic. Sometimes they’re picked up later on an MRI when a leg won’t stop hurting, and sometimes they’re obvious on tv from thousands of miles away by the screaming player or the fact that legs aren’t supposed to bend in between the joints. This season has produced fractures at both ends of the spectrum and all points in between.
Chris Kelly (Boston) – Fractured right fibula
The Bruins-Penguins game December seventh was one of the uglier debacles in recent memory. Loui Eriksson missed five weeks with a concussion from a Brooks Orpik hit, Shawn Thornton missed those same five weeks serving a suspension for his retaliatory slewfoot/suckerpunch on Orpik, James Neal took a five-game hit for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head, villages were sacked and burned, etc. Pascal Dupuis slashed Chris Kelly’s right leg, and though Kelly played in the third period of the game, it turned out he’d broken his fibula. A broken left tibia last year only kept Kelly out a month, but this time his timeline is closer to six weeks, as he’s only just resumed skating within the last few days. How? The tibial fracture wasn’t very serious. The team actually wasn’t even aware of it initially. X-rays aren’t always obvious right away, which is where the infamous “We have to wait for the swelling to go down” line comes from. Sometimes it takes a while for things to show themselves. This time there was nothing sneaky about the fracture, and Kelly has been spending his time in a walking boot. A fibular fracture will generally heal on its own, and was the injury that Toronto’s Bob Baun infamously fought through in the 1964 Stanley Cup Final.
Joni Pitkanen (Carolina) – Fractured left calcaneus (heel)
While Pitkanen’s injury happened in April of 2013 on an icing play, he’s getting a mention here because it was a brutal and unnecessary injury that may well end his career. He was initially slated to be out 10-12 weeks, which was later revised to the entirety of the 2013-14 season because of persistent instability in his shattered heel.
Stéphane Robidas (Dallas) – Fractured right tibia
Robidas snapped his right lower leg in a game in late November when his skate caught in a rut, and then smashed into the boards for good measure. This is the same injury Steven Stamkos suffered, and the two players had the same repair surgery, but Robidas is proving that recovery at 36 is a different game than recovery at 23. He’s not skating yet, but he’s rehabbing, strengthening, and just generally being awesome. There are rumblings that he could be back in late March, which would be four months post-injury. Considering that it’s generally accepted that bone takes about sixteen weeks to heal, that’s impressive. Normal (non-NHL) people often tend towards a six to twelve month recovery on an injury like this. Skip to 1:05 in the video below if you want to see the exact moment when his skate caught and his leg snapped. Or, if you’re about to eat or have just eaten, don’t.
Everyone in Minnesota – Broken legs
Captain Mikko Koivu took a shot off the ankle January 4, had surgery shortly thereafter, is still on crutches, but thinks he’ll be ready to play for Finland at the Olympics. His return was set at four weeks, so clearly his fracture wasn’t on a Stamkos/Robidas level. I like the enthusiasm. Here’s hoping he’s right.
Zach Parise thought he bruised his left foot in late November blocking a shot, but wasn’t playing at his usual level throughout December. An MRI revealed that his bruise was actually a fracture (remember that whole thing about fractures not always showing up right away?) and Parise went on IR, likely for four to six weeks, which may have him back in time for the Olympics.
Jared Spurgeon might have a broken foot. And he might not. He might have gotten it blocking a shot. But maybe not. He could be back in a couple of weeks. Or it might take months. Maybe years. Who knows? The Wild, but they’re not telling.
Peter Harrold (New Jersey) – Fractured right foot
Harrold broke his foot in early December, but has started skating again. Nothing much to see here. Move along.
Derek Dorsett (New York) – Fractured left fibula
Guess how it happened! Guess! Did you guess? Blocking a shot! The injury happened January third, he’s out four to six weeks.
Andrew Ebbett (Pittsburgh) – Fractured ankle
Broke his ankle in early December blocking a shot, didn’t need surgery, is skating, and could be back this week.
Paul Martin (Pittsburgh) – Fractured tibia
Broke his tibia
wrestling a bear blocking a shot in late November, and has been skating since early this month. He also managed to make the Olympic team despite having a bum leg, which seems to be a theme this year. He expects to be back in Pittsburgh’s lineup by late January, which is a good thing seeing as how he missed the 2010 Olympics with a broken arm.
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) – Fractured right tibia
Everybody cringed when Stamkos broke his leg in early November. He crashed into the goalpost and demostrated in a very graphic manner that legs can bend in places where there aren’t any joints. Those who didn’t cringe are monsters. Stamkos is also a monster (in a good way), because two weeks after having a rod shoved into his broken tibia he was walking around. A month after the injury he was skating. Early this month he was skating in full gear. And now he’s eyeing a late Janusry return. Initially a three to six month rehab was the goal, but Stamkos has apparently decided to heal insanely fast so he can go to the Olympics.
Jack Hillen (Washington) – Right tibial plateau fracture
Poor Jack Hillen can’t catch a break. He broke his right tibial plateau in Washington’s first game of the year. He couldn’t have a nice simple tibial shaft fracture that could be rodded. Nope. He broke the top of the tibia – the part where it forms the lower half of the knee joint. He had a surgical repair consisting of a plate and screws, and as of early December was still really sad about it:
“What can you do? I have a broken jaw, broken ribs and broken knee. I drank lots of milk as a kid, I swear. What can you do about it? I mean they’re freak injuries. Maybe I need to sacrifice a live chicken or something. I’ve got to try to find a way to stay positive. And that’s been the biggest challenge.”
Sad, but not so sad that he couldn’t sneak an animal sacrifice joke in there. Somebody please hug this guy. He was non-weightbearing until early this month, but he’s doing some light skating now. Early February was the absolute best-case estimate when he hurt himself, but he’s not close yet. He may make it back for some late-season games.
No doubt I’ve missed several players with broken legs as their teams have them listed as lower body injury, general soreness or “illness” (seriously?)
Elsewhere in non-broken-leg-news
Calgary’s David Jones supposedly took a glove to the eye, and now has an eye infection. Gross. He’s been out Since January sixth, and may return in a couple of weeks.
Pekka Rinne has just started weightbearing exercises on his infected hip. He had an arthroscopic procedure in May that mysteriously led to an infection discovered in October. After a washout, his anticipated timeline to return was four to six weeks. Update: It’s been about ten weeks and he’s just now bearing weight. This doesn’t bode well for a return any time soon.
Boston’s Dennis Seidenberg discovered that although Ottawa’s Cory Conacher isn’t a huge guy, when he lands directly on the side of your knee, bad things happen. Seidenberg had repair surgery on his right ACL and MCL, and he’s done for the year. There’s a possibility he could be back for the start of next season if his rehab progresses well.