Florida’s Cory Stillman has been dealing with a fractured disc in his back for the last couple weeks. I have looked around for specifics on the location of the fracture; but in the absence of any further details, I would assume it is a vertebral fracture. Stillman has already missed eight games, but fortunately the injury will not require surgery. There is talk that he will may be allowed to start light skating this week; and since a surgical procedure was not necessary, the fracture is most likely in a location that does not affect any sensitive nerves. I can see how skating may not be a problem depending on the location of the injury; but on the other hand, the motion could very painful, and an accidental slip could cause further damage. Still, we can assume that the fracture is healing well if doctors are already considering letting Stillman back on the ice. A timetable has not been set, but hopefully he is back on the ice sooner rather than later.
The Rangers’ Vaclav Prospal underwent knee surgery in October and has been getting progressively closer to returning. He skated with the team in full gear a week or so ago and appeared on the right track, but it now appears he will not be back until sometime in January. Why? There was no announcement of any setback, so I can only think that he is experiencing swelling and pain due to the increased demand on the knee. The past week is usually a pretty good predictor of the future when going through the rehab process, but it is never a sure thing. Considering the gear and speed at which he needs to move when skating with the team, Prospal’s knee might have been aggravated a bit. A little swelling can be dealt with, but if the swelling and the pain increase, it is a sign that the knee needs further lower-intensity conditioning.
Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger will be out 4-to-6 weeks after having surgery on a broken bone in his foot. Broken bones generally heal well, but not all bones are created equal. Some bones move more and bear more weight than others. This means that the stress placed on these bones is higher, so more care should be taken to insure there are no lingering issues. Pronger will wear a boot during his recovery, which is good news since it should allow him to regain movement in the area relatively quickly. Pronger should be back by the end of next month.
Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal has had issues with his hand since having it operated on in early November. He is working out on and off the ice but is not allowed to practice, which ensures he will not be able to use the hand for any hockey-related activities for the time being. Staal was reportedly having pain issues in the hand after the pin was removed, which affects both his grip strength and dexterity, so he will likely remain out at least until the pain goes away. Now that he has been out this long, expect the Penguins to make sure he is back at 100 percent before letting him back on the ice.
Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie is now out of the cast he wore for four weeks while dealing with a high ankle sprain. Next up for him will be a walking boot, which will allow doctors to control the amount of weight bearing and the degree of motion of the ankle. Too much motion too quickly may cause the ankle to become unstable and lead to pain. The time period for the walking boot varies on how rapidly he is healing. It can vary from a couple of weeks to a month or so, depending on body type, fitness level, endurance, etc. Skating is tough on high ankle sprains because of the medial-lateral pressure it places on the ankle and the rotary forces from the turns. Downie has worn the boot for about a week, so I would say he should be able to return on schedule, early next year.
Philadelphia’s Matt Walker recently underwent a second procedure to remove scar tissue from around his hip surgically repaired hip, which hopefully is the last setback he suffers before returning. Scar tissue can cause pain and inhibit normal functioning of the joint; but now with it removed, his rehab pretty much starts over. After the tissue has healed, Walker will start regaining normal motion and strength. Hips are important because they are, as referred to by some, the engines that propel us. Walker is expected to be out another 6-to-8 weeks.
New Jersey’s Matt Taormina suffered a setback in his recovery from an ankle sprain and has stopped skating. Small setbacks usually result in a reduction of ice time or a limiting of activities, but to stop skating altogether usually indicates something more significant. There is still a possibility this may be a temporary protective measure while he is getting re-evaluated by the physicians, but it may also lead to a delay in his return to the ice. Taormina may have twisted the ankle again, or the injury may have been aggravated enough that it now has affected other ligaments. The usual ankle sprain is one that injures the outside joints. The less common affects the inside ligaments. A severe twist may also injure the syndesmosis, which results in a high ankle sprain. We’ll have to wait and see how long he will be out.
Toronto’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere is dealing with a groin injury, but it sounds a bit more serious than most. Giguere has felt sharp pain recently, which usually signals possible tissue damage or even a tear. He will miss at least an additional two weeks before returning, but don’t be surprised if the groin is still an issue at that point.
Chicago’s Patrick Kane aggravated his leg injury by accidentally running into an assistant coach during practice Saturday. He was planning to return this week, but that has been postponed for at least another week. The nature of Kane’s injury still has not been announced, but it still sounds like he suffered only a minor knee injury. Hopefully the extra time off allows him to get back to 100 percent.
Lastly, Rick DiPietro of the Islanders has still been having problems with his surgically repaired knee, which resulted in him being placed on injured reserve Tuesday. The knee is still swelling up and affecting his ability to be perform on the ice. You usually don’t see this much with knee surgeries, but I have seen a few instances where the knee seems to have a problem healing or swells easily with any significant activity. My biggest concern would be with how his whole leg is functioning. Are the hip and the ankle functioning properly? Are they coordinating their actions so the whole leg moves efficiently? Doctors will need to say “yes” before he returns.