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Injury Analysis: Buffalo's Stafford Set to Return

William Lee

William Lee writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen has missed the last four games while dealing with back issues. It sounds like he simply has a sore back, but given Lehtonen’s history of back problems, I would give him a few more days off to be safe. As anyone who has undergone a back procedure will tell you, little things can aggravate the pain, so trying to minimize the pressure on the area is key. Unfortunately for Lehtonen, the position he plays demands twisting the back in many different directions, so it is easier for him to aggravate the injury than it is for the average person. Lehtonen should get better with rest and treatment, but hopefully the injury does not turn into a persistent problem.

The Rangers’ Vaclav Prospal had knee surgery in October, but he is well on his way to returning after skating in full gear last week. However, I don’t think Prospal was included in contact drills, which will be the final step in his rehab. Prospal also needs to get his endurance back, but he is on track to return to the ice in late December.

Another player who is very close to returning is Philadelphia’s Matt Walker, who has has already begun an AHL conditioning assignment after undergoing hip surgery in October. This puts his return ahead of schedule, so my only reservation is that he may have pushed himself too quickly. Some people heal quicker than others, but hip rehab includes a lot of strengthening, so hopefully he is not coming back before the joint is completely healed. Though Walker is set to return soon, the Flyers are considering removing him from the 23-man roster to make room for Michael Leighton. It remains to be seen when he will take the ice again, even if doctors clear him to do so.

Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff suffered a torn MCL last week, but the injury will not require surgery. Still, Horcoff will be out of action for the next two months. He will undergo physiotherapy to assist with ligament healing and then progress to balance, strength, speed and motion work. These will all be included to some degree at each phase of rehabilitation, but they will become increasingly more intense as he progresses. One of the main goals of PT will be regaining the stability of the knee in preparation for the skating motion. We will check in on Horcoff’s status again in a couple weeks.

A player who was unable to avoid surgery is Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. He is expected to be out 2-to-4 weeks, but the lower end seems a bit optimistic. After any surgical procedure, there can be issues with swelling and pain. If this is managed well and the rehab goes according to plan, I would suspect the four-week timeline to be accurate. The Predators will want to take their time with Rinne to ensure his injury does not linger for the rest of the season.

Chicago’s Patrick Kane is expected to miss about three weeks with a leg injury. It looked like a ligament sprain when it happened, but the team did not indicate whether the injury was to his knee or ankle. I would assume he suffered a knee injury from the way he went down, but hopefully more details regarding the injury become available as time passes. The medical staff is attempting to control the symptoms of the injury and then the process of regaining strength/stability/motion will begin. Kane is not injured much, so it will be interesting to see how he deals with the time off and the recovery process. He will have to be careful not to push himself too hard to ensure a complete recovery and prevent further issues.

The Islanders’ Milan Jurcina has been dealing with a hamstring injury since late October. He has not played since but has resumed skating with the team and appears ready to return very soon. The primary function of the hamstring is to assist in propulsion; so while strength is very important, flexibility is also important because a tight hamstring does not allow even a strong muscle to be efficient.

St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie was cleared to begin his rehab last week after breaking his ankle about a month ago, but don’t expect him back too soon considering he is still wearing crutches. Oshie will need to regain functional range of motion in his ankle before regaining his balance/, agility and strength, but the most intense part of his rehab will not begin until he is cleared to bear weight on his ankle. The Blues plan to re-evaluate Oshie in early February, so he will still be out a while.

Buffalo’s Drew Stafford re-injured his shoulder last week, but fortunately it looks like he will be able to play Wednesday after taking part in Monday’s practice. Stafford has been limited to just 15 games this season, but he was able to record 10 points in those contests. Stafford’s shoulder injury will be a concern for a couple weeks, but this could be the perfect time to add him to your fantasy team.

Recoveries can be delayed when an injury gets aggravated, but they can also be pushed back due to complications from the surgical procedure. Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal underwent surgery for a broken hand in September, but there have been whispers that he broke the same bone again. Head coach Dan Bylsma would only say a calcification was found when a pin in Staal’s hand was removed last week. Staal was originally expected to miss about six weeks, but it does not appear he will make it back on time after it was determined he will undergo further X-rays this week rather than practice. Staal’s status will remain in question until more details about the injury, and his recovery process, are revealed.

Vancouver took another hit when Mason Raymond suffered a broken thumb last week. It looks like he will not need surgery, but he will still have to wear a cast or splint so the bones heal properly. The Canucks expect Raymond to be out 3-to-4 weeks, which would indicate that the fracture is small. Once Raymond’s grip strength returns, he will be able to get back on the ice.