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NHL Injury Analysis: Season-Opening Report

Hannah Rawls

Hannah is from St. Petersburg, FL. She graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University. She's a certified athletic trainer and currently works for a NCAA D2 college in Florida. She has worked with NAIA and NCAA football, rugby, and lacrosse and ACHA ice hockey as an athletic trainer.

Forget what I said four months ago. I mean, don't forget all of it because some of it was pretty witty and awesome, but most of it is irrelevant now that so much time has passed and most of those injuries have healed. I vote we just start over and forget the last four torturous months. I say we just pretend it was just a really long summer and that our hearts weren't slowly being ripped out piece by piece over a ridiculously long period of time. From this point forward we will only focus on the fact that four months of playing in a different country or league, or even wakeboarding (cough Erik Gudbranson cough) does in fact cause injuries. This "really long summer" made for a lot of injuries to catch up on, so to help you out I've kind of grouped most of the injuries together.

The Stanley Cup winners might be a center short on Saturday. Anze Kopitar sustained a Grade 2 MCL sprain (partial tearing of the medial collateral ligament of the knee) while playing for Mora in Sweden. Even though the team is saying healing is going quicker than anticipated, and Kopitar has been fitted for a brace and has been allowed to skate with the team, I would honestly be hesitant when trying to grab him for your team. If he comes out healthy and he repeats last season's stats (25 goals and 51 assists in 82 games, with a +12) he would be a great pick. However, he will have to do it with a diagnosed Grade 2 sprain that only had two weeks to heal, while playing in the Western Conference during a highly competitive fast paced shorten season. I just don't see it happening. But, I'm kind of a pessimist.

During the (real) offseason Calgary acquired Roman Cervenka in order to add some depth to their offense. In late November while Cervenka was playing for some random team in a far off land, he was diagnosed with blood clots. While he's still not cleared for full team practices he is skating by himself and taking blood thinners to make sure the clots do not reappear. Playing while on blood thinners is not the greatest of ideas; if Cervenka were to be injured the risk of increased bleeding is ten-fold (and that obviously leads to more complications such as internal bleeding and all that not so fun stuff). If it were me I would watch out for his return, but you should be aware that after getting off the blood thinners he may have a chance of the clots returning.

Devils' center Adam Henrique is still weeks away from returning from having his thumb surgically repaired back in late November. Henrique had his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his left thumb repaired. Normally this injury is called "Gamekeeper's thumb" and happens when the thumb is pulled too far in the wrong direction (the making an ‘L' with your thumb and index finger sort of direction). The surgery is necessary because this ligament is a major stabilizer for the thumb and without it the overall function of the thumb and hand is hindered (and I feel like I don't have to speak on the importance of hand use in this sport). After the surgery, rehab is extremely important to strengthen the surrounding structures, so that the injury has less of a chance of happening again. The healing process takes about 2-to-3 months so Henrique may be back around the beginning of February.

Ryan Kesler of Vancouver is progressing slowly from his off-season shoulder surgery (I discussed the details back in August - I told you not to forget everything I said!). Kesler is taking things slowly due to previous experience in pushing things too quickly. His original projected timeline to return before the lockout was late December; however, he's still not ready to play. With the shortened schedule, the slowed rehabilitation after labrum repairs, and his uninspiring stats from last season, I can honestly say that he wouldn't be a good pick. But, you do what you want.

The Panthers' Sean Bergenheim played a whole two games for IFK Helsinki before re-injuring his groin; this is the same injury that's been nagging him since at least last season. Florida has suspended the winger for getting hurt but that might not matter since the team has ordered an MRI to see if the problem is actually worse than previously expected and to rule out if he'll need surgery.  Now if he does need surgery it'll be because he has a complete tear of a muscle of there's an avulsion fracture (small pieces of the bone where the muscle attaches have pulled off), and it will keep him out until at least next season. Hopefully the MRI comes out negative and we'll see Bergenheim on the ice again soon.

Another winger experiencing some groin pain is Detroit's Mikael Samuelsson. At 36 years old he's looking at a biological disadvantage when it comes to healing time. Also, he was so plagued with injuries last season he missed almost 30 games. However, if he comes back healthy on Saturday then the Wings' second line will be powerful. In 54 games last season, Samuelsson netted 14 goals with 17 assists and ended +1.

I'm not judging winger James van Riemsdyk (Toronto) or defenseman Erik Gustafsson (Philadelphia) for having bruised feet, but really? Van Riemsdyk took a puck to the foot during practice this past week and Gustafsson, well, I don't know what happened to him but he reportedly has a bruised bone in his foot. If van Riemsdyk just has a simple good ole bruise on his foot he should be back within a few days, however, if he's in the same boat as Gustafsson then that just sounds terrible to me. Bone bruises hurt. Bad. They also take a very long time to heal because of the several layers of crisscrossed fiber that helps form bones. For the bone to heal it has to go layer by layer. If they're tougher than me (and that's not hard to be) then both should be on the ice sooner rather than later, with no residual issues.

J.T. Brown of Tampa Bay and Jonas Brodin of the Wild are both nursing surgically repaired clavicles (collarbones). Brown has another six to eight weeks to sit up in those beautifully renovated suites at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, but Brodin only has about two weeks before he can hit the ice again in Minnesota. Your clavicle is an important bone when it comes to shoulder moment, and in hockey you obviously need a lot of that.  Surgical repair is done when there is a displacement and when you want to heal quicker. There's a lot of confusing words when it comes to the description of the actual surgery, so what I'm going to tell you is, they go to sleep, a drill is used to put a screw and a pin in the bone pieces to fuse them together, and then they wake up.  Both of these gentlemen were supposed to have a fast track to their prospective NHL teams this season, but with these injuries that may not be in the cards anymore. Not only because of the timing of the injuries with the shorten season but because of the possibility of lagging pain, and the effects that may have on their quality of play.

The concussion monster is rearing its ugly headache causing head once again in multiple athletes across the league. Chicago defenseman Steve Montador was dealing with concussion symptoms at the end of last season causing him to miss the last two months. After Montador was cleared to participate he decided that it was a good idea to collide with one of his teammates and get another one right before the lockout ended. Michael Sauer of the Rangers is still dealing with his concussion symptoms from a big hit in December 2011. The team released a statement stating that seeing Sauer playing this season is more of a fantasy (see what I did that, because this is fantasy hockey? No? Fine.). Marc-Andre Bouron and Chris Pronger both of Philadelphia are said to still be plagued with concussion symptoms too. However, the Flyers are being kind of tight-lipped about everything when it comes to injuries, especially their defensemen. I have a small feeling it has to do with the fact that they have about half of a healthy blue-liner right now and they don't need people understanding the detrimental impact that has to a shorten season.

To make your little hockey hearts happy I'll throw you some possibly good concussion news. The Red Wings' Patrick Eaves might be able to start on Saturday. Eaves has not played since November 2011 and he was recently cleared by the team. Participating in practices is a good sign, but being out so long from the game might show on the ice. Maybe he'll be worth something, but you have to wait and see. Another hint of good news may be coming from Toronto. The Leafs might be able to use defenseman Jake Gardiner soon. Gardiner has been experiencing concussion/whiplash-like symptoms since he took a hit on December 8th, but has been cleared to participate in training camp. During the lockout Gardiner netted 9 goals, with 17 points in 22 games while playing in the AHL. If he does play this Saturday he may be a quality point maker for your fantasy team.

With a shortened season starting, this is only the beginning of the injury list. With a smaller amount of time to win Lord Stanley's Cup, these men are going to fight tooth and nail to get to the post season. There are 48 games and it's only a matter of time before the first person cries out "TRAINER!"