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Injury Analysis: Pittsburgh Stars Ailing

William Lee

William Lee writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

With just a couple days left until Thanksgiving, some of us may have started to think about what we are thankful for. Most of us would probably say “hockey season” - a strong second to family of course. Let’s take a look at this week’s injuries.

New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur just joined the injured gang thanks to a bruised elbow that is expected to keep him out at least 10 days. An MRI taken on Brodeur’s elbow came back negative, but the prognosis leads me to believe he is having trouble moving his elbow joint. If Brodeur has only a “bruise”, he should be back in about a week. If his return to the ice is delayed, the injury is likely something a bit more severe, such as a muscle or ligament injury that does not always show up on imaging tests. Hopefully this is only a bruise.

Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin has been battling a sore knee for a few weeks, but it seems that his ailing leg may be catching up with him. Malkin did not practice Sunday or Tuesday, and he may be better off just taking a week or so off to let his knee and body recover. Teammate Sidney Crosby has also been trying to tough out an injury of his own, but he might actually be compounding his recurring groin injury. Crosby has said the injury is nothing new, which in the hockey sphere could gain him some points in the grittiness category. However, trying to play through the injury could also lead to other health problems. In general, the longer a person deals with an injury without treating it, the greater the potential of an injury to another are; and, when Crosby does decide to allow the injury to heal, the process may take a bit longer because he did not address it right away. It may be time for a little R&R for the two Pittsburgh studs.

Moving on to our weekly glance at the groin injuries affecting NHL stars, we start this week with Buffalo’s Ryan Miller. Miller has a tight groin muscle, which to me means a small nagging injury is causing the muscle to tighten up as a protective mechanism. How do we naturally react when we experience pain? We withdraw. In the same manner we pull our hand back when feeling intense heat, Miller’s groin muscle is tightening up to protect itself. Miller’s rehab process will be important because muscle mobility is vital to goalies such as him that rely more on mobility and quickness than pure size. Non-goalies can also be significantly impacted by groin injuries, but luckily with age comes wisdom. Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne has sat out practice since aggravating his groin injury Saturday. Considering how long he has been around, Selanne has probably learned the benefits of treating injuries right away and being patient. Like Miller, Selanne relies on his mobility, so some time off should do his body some good.

Andrew MacDonald of the Islanders is now using a glove and holding onto a stick, which are positive indicators that his hand is healing well from the surgery he underwent in late October. However, questions remain. How much can he do with his hand? What is his wrist strength/mobility like? What is his grip strength like? Can he rotate his wrist and forearm with full strength against resistance? (Think Adam Banks). Though there is still some uncertainty regarding MacDonald’s recovery, he does appear on track to hit the 4-to-6 week target window that was established at the time of the injury.
Anaheim’s Joffrey Lupul is approaching the one-year date since he last took the ice, but fortunately it looks like he will be able to return sometime in the next couple weeks. Lupul has missed nearly 12 months thanks to back surgery and an infection that developed in the area, but he has been skating without issue recently and could be back in action by early December. Infections can be both physically and mentally draining, but it looks like Lupul is finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

Another guy making good progress is Philadelphia’s Michael Leighton. He still has to get back into game shape, but he has finally been able to begin this process after he was cleared for on-ice activity ice week. Game shape is not just regaining your legs but also getting the body to ready for contact. Hesitation on the ice is costly, so the body must be physically ready to take and give punishment. Though Leighton underwent back surgery, it is interesting to note that his ankle was damaged due to the pain in his back. If I take this at face value, it sounds like he may have experienced a nerve injury. Remember there are many nerves that line the back. These nerves give us sensation but also make our muscles work. Muscles can be impacted if a nerve that controls a muscle is injured due to abnormal pressure. This causes the nerve to decrease its input, hence causing the muscle to be weakened. The nerve damage is not irreversible, but let’s keep an eye on Leighton and see if he exhibits any changes in skating ability.

Colorado’s TJ Galiardi is also making a rapid recovery – he could be back in four weeks rather than the 6-to-8 week prognosis typically associated with wrist surgery. The immobilization alone weakened his wrist and hand muscles to some degree, but full mobility will not be required before he is allowed to return. It will be interesting to see how quickly he recovers once cleared for rehab.

Los Angeles’ Scott Parse was initially thought to have a groin issue, but he was later diagnosed with a hip labrum injury. I can’t seem to find information on the type of injury, but it does not sound good since he is expected to miss 3-to-4 months. Parse is scheduled to have surgery next week, which is the standard course of treatment for labral injuries. Once he is healed, he will be given clearance to start rehab and regain his hip mobility. This means that everything around the hip will need to be rehabilitated to ensure proper flexibility, strength, and – most importantly – motor coordination. Without this, the hip joint is vulnerable to re-injury and the muscles surrounding the area can be susceptible to strains.

Lastly, we have to mention Montreal’s Andrei Markov once more. He really has had a bad string of luck. Markov re-injured his surgically repaired knee, and after receiving several medical opinions, it was determined that he tore his ACL a second time and also sustained a bone contusion and a large lateral meniscal tear. Markov will need additional surgery to repair his knee will be out a minimum 5-to-6 months, so he will not return to the ice this season. The hope is he is ready for training camp/preseason next season.

Good luck to all with their recoveries.