In the second part of a six-part series, The Injury Ward will look into each team’s recovering players, along with updates on the players we normally see with “IR” in red font next to their name all year long. This week, we’ll be looking into the Atlantic Division with updates on stars in New Jersey, New York, Long Island, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
New Jersey Devils
David Clarkson – This fearless Devil truly earned Don Cherry’s “warrior” praises after playing through the Devils entire postseason run with a fractured foot. Clarkson furthered the injury by continuing to play on the injured foot, but it would be difficult to tell him that it wasn’t worth it. The thirty-goal scorer says his foot is fully healed and he’s already practicing. He will be set to return whenever the puck will be dropped.
Ilya Kovalchuk – Courtesy of NHL.com, Ilya Kovalchuk says his “back is fine” after feeling throbbing pain throughout the postseason. Lamoriello said last Thursday that the sniper is in Russia working out and that he is currently skating, according to the Bergen Report. Kovalchuk is a very powerful and resilient forward, which is why he has seen over 75 or more games in each year since his rookie season.
Patrik Elias – The longest current Devil underwent groin surgery in the offseason after a hard fought playoff. The Czech says his groin is back to normal and he will also be set to play hockey whether there be a lockout or if he would have to go overseas. Elias has played in 81 games each over the past two seasons, but groins are a tricky injury and at the age of 36, it will be difficult to see him competing night in and night out in this upcoming season.
Mark Fayne – The third-year New Jersey resident also went under the knife for a wrist operation in July. This past week, Lou Lamoriello said “He couldn’t play tomorrow, but he’ll be ready in a couple of weeks. He’s O.K. It’s just making sure it’s 100 percent healed.” Fayne mentioned last night at the NHLPA meetings that his wrist is “doing better.” New Jersey has the luxury of a relatively deep pool of depth defenders with Peter Harrold and Henrik Tallinder as the number seven and number eight rearguards for the club.
Jacob Josefson – The youthful Swedish center has had a series of unfortunate injuries after missing 36 games early last season with a clavicle injury, then returning to break his wrist with only a handful of games remaining in the regular season. Josefson returned to compete in a few playoff games for New Jersey, but was given miniscule ice time. With the departure of Zach Parise and veteran Petr Sykora still unsigned, Deboer may be forced to play the former first-round pick in a top-nine, or even a top-six role. As a twenty-one year-old, Josefson is a potential band-aid boy, as he has missed over sixty clashes in the past two years.
Anton Volchenkov – The punishing Russian defender will not let any opposition enter in the Devils end without paying the price. With Volchenkov putting his body on the line every night, he’s bound to see more injuries in the future. The recent father has missed at least ten games in each of his past five years. He shouldn’t be relied on in any leagues aside from ones that see hits and blocked shots as a stat category.
This guy is tough:
New York Islanders
Rick Dipietro – There is not much I can say that everyone already doesn’t know about the Islanders franchise goaltender. He will inevitably be injured early in the year and then be hurt either in his rehabbing or in his first five starts. How excellent would the United States national team’s goaltending look if Dipietro was an ironman between the pipes?
Lubomir Visnovsky – One of the overshadowed summer sagas ended yesterday with the verdict on the Visnovsky case. The veteran defender had hoped to have his trade to Long Island voided, but was not lucky enough to remain a Duck. The six-time Slovakian defenseman of the year is two-years removed from a 68-point season in Anaheim, but one shouldn’t expect him to get anywhere close to those numbers. We should see an unmotivated Visnovsky after this fiasco, and at age 36 and a rash of injuries in his past, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the former Kings fourth-round pick produce similar totals to last season.
Kevin Poulin – The Islanders relatively deep goaltending pool is also suffering from the injury bug. Poulin suffered a knee injury during a warm-up in February, which required a season ending operation. The Islanders haven’t given a formal update on the status of the young goaltender, but Poulin should be good to split starts with Anders Nilsson in Bridgeport next season. Also, if Dipietro sees his regular injury, Poulin will have a shot to showcase his talents on Long Island.
New York Rangers
Marian Gaborik – The slick and speedy sniper will be out until at least late November after undergoing a shoulder operation to repair a torn labrum. He told reporters this week that right now he’s only able to ‘shoot muffins’, and he is still on schedule to return at the anticipated time frame. While the forty-goal scorer remains on the sidelines, Kreider will have a chance to showcase his talent in the top-six. Gaborik’s powerplay numbers this season should see a jump as he’ll have another elite sniper on the opposite wing.
Michael Sauer – After receiving a devastating open-ice hit from the Leafs captain, Sauer is still not able to practice and is not free of concussion symptoms. Prior to the injury, Sauer was playing tremendous hockey in the Rangers top four. Tortorella has said that he doesn’t expect to see Sauer in the Rangers gear for a while, which explains New York’s recent resigning of Steve Eminger. Michael’s brother Kurt, also suffered a concussion a few years ago and has still not recovered fully.
Dylan Mcilrath – Over the summer, the defender who was picked prior to Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley dislocated his knee cap. “The Undertaker” is not expected to be ready for in-game action for at least a month, although, he will begin skating soon.
Chris Pronger – The Flyers captain will be visiting the team’s Voorhees practice facility next week for tests. While it has been a general consensus that Pronger would not be playing NHL hockey ever again, one should definitely keep a keen eye on the results of these tests. The veteran blueliner has now gone from a player to avoid on draft day to perhaps a late round steal if he participates in even twenty games.
Andrej Meszaros – The Flyers depleted backend will be without the services of the Slovak defender while he recovers from a torn Achilles injury. In the next few weeks, Holmgren will be given an update on Meszaros status, but until then, his health remains in question. If he’s not able to begin the season on time, look for a boost in Erik Gustafsson’s responsibility as he’ll likely see extended powerplay minutes.
Andreas Lilja – If the season starts in the month of October, the Flyers will have to go without a former Stanley Cup winner in Andreas Lilja. The old hand had hip surgery in the offseason and should be ready to go either by late October or early November, according to the general manager.
Sidney Crosby – From a report by Josh Yohe, Crosby said, “I’ve been feeling 100 percent. It feels good to not have to think about (injury issues), and to work as hard as you want.” Yohe also had a scouting report on ‘The Kid’: He looks magnificent. Watching Crosby skate today was impressive. He was flying. Also, it must be noted that he clearly has added muscle this summer. His upper body looks bigger. This isn’t especially relevant, but it tells you this much: He is healthy. With the news that it seems like we’ve heard multiple times last year, take it with a grain of salt. Who knows what will happen with the head of Sidney Crosby in this next season.
Paul Martin – The Prime Minister missed three playoff games with concussion-like symptoms in April and May. He’s a very highly priced 27-point player in cap leagues, but he’ll produce around the same amount in this upcoming year for those poolies in non-salary leagues. Martin has spent the recent portion of his offseason training with Okposo, Byfuglien, Goligoski and others.
Dustin Jeffrey – The young band-aid boy has been bitten by the injury bug more often than not in his adolescent career. He missed over twenty games last season with a knee injury and ended the year by missing ten games with an illness. He has been working out informally with some other Pens’ this past week at one-hundred percent. Jeffrey is entering the final year of his contract and will be looking to prove he belongs in the NHL, as long as his health allows him to do so.
Evgeni Malkin – Are you a fan of Russian roulette? The crafty Russian has played in 75, 43, and 67 games in the past three years, respectively. He has only seen issues in his legs, which begs the question as to if he’ll have a long and illustrious career, or if he’ll go the Pavel Bure route. Expect to see Malkin manning the point on the Pens top powerplay and for countless nights of magic that will even have Disney begging for movie rights.
Tyler Kennedy – The energetic forward has logged under 67 games in three of his last four seasons. He has suffered from a groin injury, concussion, knee, leg and other miscellaneous mishaps throughout his career. In his past three seasons, he has been on pace for 45 points for each year if he were to compete in 82 contests. He should hit around the same mark in this upcoming year while he sees time as a tweener second and third liner.
Chris Kunitz – When excluding last season, the former Duck has missed on average, 23 games a year for the past three campaigns. He has a very diverse doctor chart with injuries in just about everywhere a hockey player could be hurt. He is a certified band-aid boy and he will be one of the biggest risk and reward players on draft day as he will see minutes with one of Crosby and Malkin, but was also see time on the injury reserved.