The NHL season is underway and there are a few lingering injuries from the offseason, as well as some suffered already, that are going to affect teams early on. Luckily it’s a long season, and as long as these players handle their recoveries well, many of them should return to the ice.
The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks began the season without defenseman Brian Campbell, who is dealing with a sprained knee that is expected to keep him out 4-to-6 weeks. The time frame indicates that the sprain is not a minor one and that Campbell will need rehab to restore the stability in the knee before returning. We should know within the next week or two if Campbell is on track to return as indicated.
Another Western Conference team looking at a long-term injury is St. Louis – forward Cam Janssen has been diagnosed with a concussion and sternum contusion. The sternum contusion is the least of his worries but will still impact his ability to do anything with his arms, and it may affect his breathing depending on the region and severity of his contusion. The concussion is the bigger concern because the symptoms can remain for a while. The league is very cautious with concussions and all steps are being made to ensure that a player meets very strict criteria before he is allowed to return to the ice. Hopefully this is minor and we see Janssen back in a couple weeks.
Dallas forward Jaime Benn took a severe hit against the boards in Saturday’s game and is being observed for concussion symptoms. Benn will likely be held out until next week but the Stars are optimistic that he will be able to return relatively soon.
The Red Wings are also dealing with an injury. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is suffering from back spasms that have already cost him two games, and he has yet to resume skating. Back problems, even those that seem minor, can have lingering issues and cause muscles to weaken quickly. The weakness that develops can impact performance and leave players open to future injuries. The sooner Ericsson returns to the ice, the better the long-term prognosis.
One player who finished last season with an injury starts off this season with another. Goalie Michael Leighton of the Flyers is scheduled to have back surgery and will reportedly be out 6-to-8 weeks. I honestly think this is probably being a little too optimistic unless the surgery is very minor. I imagine that he will be out a minimum two months unless everything goes perfectly right. Tissue healing usually takes a minimum 4-to-6 weeks even in the healthiest of individuals, so there is no room for error if they hope to hit the low end of the prognosis. Of course I don’t know exactly what surgery is going to be performed, so this is a broad statement on post-surgical recovery.
A player that I failed to mention last season was forward Byron Bitz of Florida, who begins this season with a groin injury. It is not thought to be serious, but assistant GM Mike Santos has stated the team will not rush Bitz back. Proper rehab is important in recovering from groin injuries because the motions required in hockey can easily aggravate a previous muscle strain and cause further injury. It is nice to hear that the Panthers are not taking any chances with Bitz’s recovery.
Finger injuries are not very common in hockey, but they can really limit a player’s stick handling and overall effectiveness. Rangers center Chris Drury is dealing with this type of injury, but it sounds like he will be able to return for Thursday’s game against the Maple Leafs.
Another Eastern Conference team that is looking at a potentially perilous situation is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Forward Arron Asham is on injured reserve with a left shoulder injury and may even need surgery. Until further details of his injury are available, it is hard to say how long he will be out. If Asham undergoes surgery, he may be gone for about three months.
Another guy worth monitoring is Kings defenseman Matt Greene, who just started skating after having shoulder surgery in September. Greene has not been cleared for contract and might not be for another few weeks, so he is still looking at being out a while longer. I have been unable to find out what procedure Greene underwent, so it is difficult to predict just how long he will be out. Greene’s main goal at this stage will be regaining his range of motion before he rebuilds his strength.
Finally, the Anaheim Ducks have two players who are dealing with injuries on opposite ends of the spectrum. Forward Jason Jaffray is going to be out 3-to-4 months after undergoing surgery for an ACL tear. Rehab for ACL tears always starts with regaining motion, then building up strength and the explosiveness of the leg muscles. Then there is defenseman Andy Sutton, who fractured his right thumb during a fight in Detroit. Thumb fractures are significant because the thumb allows a player to grasp and make moves with his hockey stick. Sutton will get his thumb examined to determine how long he will be out; but conservatively, I would guess 3-to-5 weeks depending on the location of the fracture.
I hope your teams/players are healthy and off to a good start. If you have any questions or comments about the article, feel free to post below.