In this 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 Northeast Division with updates on stars in Boston, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
Nathan Horton – During the month of July, the Bruins doctors had cleared the Welland-native for contact after not quite recovering fully from a Stanley Cup final concussion. From NHL.com: "The start of the season, definitely the concussion was an issue," Horton told ESPNBoston.com on Jan 12. "I definitely wasn't myself and didn't feel the way I wanted to. It wasn't, like I said then, like post-concussion syndrome or something like that I think, but more me just trying to get my timing and confidence back and, yeah, maybe being a bit hesitant with my physical game. It was definitely tough, but as the team started to win, and in like November and into December, I felt better, and I feel much better now." Ten days later, he missed the rest of the season with concussion-like symptoms. Horton should be ready for training camp, but the first hit he receives will be a telling tale, as is with every other concussion victim.
Tyler Seguin – Boston’s leading scorer last year has had a busy offseason. He had won the Biosteel cup this past week and spent ten weeks recovering from surgery in May on his right hand to repair a tendon. The natural born winner has been working on his core this offseason to increase his `man strength`. Tyler should see an increase in production with added weight and sitting in good health.
Marc Savard – Another year the NHL will have to be without the services of the extraordinary playmaker Marc Savard. There is no update on his status and could have already called it a career behind the scenes.
Tim Thomas will also not be participating in the upcoming season with a ‘suspected head injury’.
Nathan Gerbe – In the past two years, the 5’5 winger has seen 64 and 62 games respectively. As is the life of a small NHLer, Gerbe will be hard-pressed to find health throughout his career. Last year, he suffered a concussion and ended the season with a nagging back issue. The former Boston College Eagle appears to have spent this offseason getting healthy and should be ready to go when the puck is eventually dropped at the First Niagara Center.
Drew Stafford – While being known in the fantasy circles as an injury prone forward, Stafford has partaken in 70+ games in three of the last four seasons. One of few Wisconsin-born NHL players, Stafford saw a dramatic fall in production this past season with 50 points in 80 clashes, despite posting 31 goals and 52 points in 62 games in 2010-11.
Andrej Sekera – To the very deep leagues out there, Andrej Sekera has played in less than 70 games in 3 of the last 4 years, with a handful of different injuries. He is far from an offensive defender, but nine points in ten games for Slovakia in the World Championships means we could see a rise from his thirteen point campaign last season.
Lindy Ruff – After breaking three ribs last season during a practice, one of the NHL’s ironmen should continue to be injury-free while coaching in virtually every Buffalo contest in the past fifteen years.
Brian Gionta – The leader of the bleu, blanc et rouge suffered a bicep injury requiring the captain to miss the last 40 games of the easily forgettable Habs season. He had started the year slowly with only 15 points in his last 31 games prior to the damage. The emergence of David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty may cause Gionta to lose some major minutes, but he is feeling 100% and as he tweeted on August 12th, “Let’s just play hockey.”
Rene Bourque – One of the biggest beneficiaries of the potential lockout will spend the next eight-to-twelve weeks recovering from a repair on his abdominal wall. If the season ends up beginning early October, the former Flame will miss the first three-to-five weeks. Perhaps this injury will open up a spot for a young Bulldog or Sting draftee.
Andrei Markov – With a knee only slightly stronger than Pavel Bure’s, Markov returned last season as a thirty-three year-old to assist on three goals in 13 games. His aging and banged up body will make it extremely difficult to return to his old form, but he shouldn’t be written off after missing 144 of the last 164 regular season games for Montreal.
Colby Armstrong – Armdog’s usual pesty play caused him to be ousted from Toronto while only lacing up the skates for 79 games over the span of two years. He had suffered multiple foot injuries and wasn’t performing up to snuff on the ice. Last year, Armstrong picked up three points in 29 games for the Leafs, but will have a fire in his belly when he hears the roars of the Bell Centre faithful. The reports have Armstrong at one-hundred percent, but he still isn’t likely going to make a big splash in fantasy circles, as he will be seeing third or fourth line minutes.
Alex Galchenyuk – The jaw-dropping Ameri-Russian went third overall this past summer while only seeing action in two regular season games last year. It’s difficult to say whether or not he’ll be seeing time at the professional level, as he is gravely inexperienced while only lining up for 70 matches in the OHL. The Sarnia Sting center could be tossed into the fire if Montreal doesn’t come out of the gate storming or if Bourque isn’t able to start the season on time.
Guillaume Latendresse – Gui recently signed on for one year with Ottawa after missing 50 games last season with a concussion, and 58 games two years ago with a major groin injury. The Senators feel confident in his health and scoring talent while pitching a low sum of $2 million at Latendresse, even though he’s only a few years removed from having 25 goals and 37pts in 55 games in Minnesota. The Quebec-native could play top-six minutes for the thin Ottawa offense this year next to the recently extended pivot, Kyle Turris, and one of Daniel Alfredsson or Jakob Silfverberg. It may take Latendresse a few weeks to get accustomed to NHL action as he has only skated in 27 games in the past two years.
Jason Spezza – Coming off his first season as a married man, the former second-overall pick decided to spend the majority of his time on the ice, as opposed to with his wife this past season. Spezza played in 80 games for the first time since 2008-09, but again will be a question mark for next season, despite appearing in 76+ games in three of his past five years. As a natural band-aid boy, he will make you choose between risk and reward every night of the week.
Peter Regin – The ‘Great Dane’ missed 72 games last year with a shoulder injury after starting the year with a promising four points in his first seven games. The Sens army extended Regin for another season this summer and he could play either on the second or third line come October. He seems optimistic about his prospects this upcoming year: “I met with my surgeon yesterday and got cleared for contact so I’m pretty much there. It’s been a long road but it’s been a good summer too. Like I said, I spent most of the summer here in Ottawa to do the rehab and it’s been very good. The guys have helped me out a lot and it is where I want to be right now.” “I’m doing still doing rehab on my shoulder and training that more than I would if I hadn’t had an injury.” That was courtesy of the6thSens.com.
Sergei Gonchar –Being one of only three active players from the 1992 draft, Gonchar has played in 74, 67, 62 and 25 games respectively in the past four years. Last season, the healthy Russian paired up with budding defender Jared Cowen in the second pairing. The departure of Kuba should open up some offensive minutes for Gonchar to improve his totals and prove to the Sens’ faithful that he is worth the $5.5 million in this upcoming year. Although, it shouldn’t shock anyone that as a 38 year-old, he won’t be gunning for any milestones next season and could spend a chunk of it on the injury reserved or watching from the press box.
Chris Neil – Another player who is likely only on teams in deep leagues or roto leagues, the man with two first names has played in less than 72 games in five of his past six seasons. The demanding game is taking a toll on Neil, but he should still be good for another twenty-point 175 penalty minute year.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Matt Frattin – With ten goals in thirteen postseason games, Frattin’s playoffs were cut short with a knee injury, requiring surgery which caused him to miss the Calder Cup Final. The latest update has the Toronto scorer two weeks away from returning to the ice. He is expected to slot into the top-nine this upcoming season with the Leafs, as long as he suffers no setbacks.
James van Riemsdyk - The recently acquired Bud had a rough year all around last season while missing 15 games with a concussion, along with 26 games with a left foot injury. He was expected to take the next step after a strong postseason in the year prior, where he ignited the red light seven times in eleven matches. The Leafs are hoping to solve their first-line center dilemma by giving JVR a try in between Lupul and Kessel during training camp.
James Reimer – ‘Optimus Reim’ received a mighty concussion from the knee of Brian Gionta only six games into the year last season. Prior to the incident, Reimer posted a 4-0-1 record with a sub-par 2.60 goals against average. Following the injury, the Manitoba-native held a record of 10-14-3, while allowing three or more goals in twenty of his last twenty-seven starts. Will Scrivens be up for the challenge in Toronto?
Joffrey Lupul – "I'm 100 per cent. I've had a full summer of training. I'll be ready to go." Straight from the horse’s mouth, Lupul hopes to put up similar totals to last year as he maintained a point-per-game average, until he missed the last 16 games with a separated shoulder. The Ducks seventh pick in 2002 has continually been a band-aid boy while participating in less than 70 games in five of the past six seasons. Hopefully, for Lupul’s sake, he’ll be healthy all year long as he hopes to cash-in big next offseason.
Tim Connolly – Two years ago, Connolly contributed 65 points in 73 games for the Sabres top line. Unfortunately, he has not been able to replicate those numbers and eventually ended last season on the Leafs third line next to Joey Crabb and David Steckel. The former first-round pick was once a dynamic player, but with two known concussions, numerous groin, foot and knee injuries, he will not be able to skate down the wing and dangle the way he once did. The only positives that Connolly has going for him is that he finished the year with points in five of his last seven, and is entering a contract year.
Matt Lombardi – On his second stint in Canada, Lombardi clearly wasn’t his normal self last season as documented by his 18 point campaign. The normally speedy, handful of offense missed 18 games last year with an arm injury after skipping 80 games in 2011-12 with a concussion. He should improve on his point totals with a full summer to recover, but a minus-nineteen rating and seven points following the All-Star break shouldn’t have anyone jumping for joy while taking him late in the draft.
If you’d like to talk puck or read about injury updates, Brandon can be followed on Twitter @thelandshock.