Chris Pronger, Sidney Crosby, and the 15 Most Significant Injuries This Season

Riley Kufta@@RileyKuftaContributor IIIFebruary 3, 2012

Chris Pronger, Sidney Crosby, and the 15 Most Significant Injuries This Season

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    The NHL is one of the most physical, fast paced sports out there. The physicality, among just about every other thing about hockey, is why we love the game. 

    While the nature of the game does create entertainment, it also results in numerous injuries; an issue that has really taken light this season.  

    But why is this the season that it's getting attention? Injuries happen every year. 

    This season, it seems as though every injury affects a star player, some of which have been detrimental to the team, the league, or even the player's career.  

    This slideshow will look at the most significant injuries so far this season.  

Ryan Miller

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    Back in November, Ryan Miller was run over by Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins. What really makes this hit so memorable isn't the severity (although it was bad), but the way Miller acted following the hit.  

    Miller missed eight games due to the hit that resulted in the concussion. His time missed wasn't significant, as Jhonas Enroth is a more than capable back-up.  

    What made this injury significant, is the way Miller has played since returning. The once thought best goaltender in the world currently sits 38th in the league for save percentage, with just a few starting goaltenders trailing.  

    His sub-par performance spread like wildfire to the rest of the team, who now sit just two points out of last place in the Eastern Conference. 

    If the team continues on this path, they will be the most disappointing and surprising team of the season, likely resulting in becoming sellers in the upcoming weeks.  

Marc Savard

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    Sometimes it's easy to forget Marc Savard; mainly because the Bruins managed to win the Stanley Cup without him last season.  

    Sitting out with a concussion for the majority of the past three seasons, Savard's career is likely over. That being said, the center isn't ruling out the chance at making a return in the future.  

    I realize his concussion isn't "news", but it still is very significant this season.  

    If his symptoms were to subside and a return was made possible, the Bruins would be adding one of the best passers in the game to an already powerhouse team. The addition of Savard would make a Stanley Cup repeat just that much more likely.  

    If he never returns, it will be equally significant. Another NHL career ending early due to concussions, especially to a player of Marc Savard's calibre, would even further increase the need to eliminate head shots from the game.  

Jeff Carter

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets dipped into their wallets last summer, acquiring Jeff Carter in a trade and picking up some key free agents.  

    Carter has played just 30 out of the Blue Jackets 51 games this season, and has been out with a shoulder injury since early January.  

    With the additions to the Blue Jackets' roster last offseason, expectations were high. Few people would have predicted them to be last in the NHL at any point in the season.  

    Carter's expected return this week would be good news if his performance had been better when he was healthy this season; but with just 17 points in 30 games, Columbus fans aren't holding their breath for a huge improvement.  

    Despite arriving just last summer, Carter's sub-par play has already resulted in trade speculation

Pierre-Marc Bouchard

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    As a former eighth overall pick, big things were expected from Pierre-Marc Bouchard.  

    Consistent improvement over the first few seasons had his future looking bright, until he sustained his first concussion.  

    The forward hasn't played a full season since the '07/08 season, with just one game played in '09/10.  

    After beginning to get back into shape this season, he suffered yet another concussion in early January, from which he still sits out. 

    Getting another concussion was significant for the Minnesota Wild, who have slipped in the standings, as well as Bouchard's career.  

    While he has began skating recently, his past troubles are reason for worry.

    Whether or not he will ever get past his concussion issues and live up to his potential remains in question.  

Mike Green

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    Mike Green quickly emerged as the league's most offensively dangerous defenseman; and just as quickly became one of the league's most injury prone players.  

    His recurring groin injury over the years has become quite a problem for the Capitals, who are struggling along side captain Alexander Ovechkin.  

    Green is still expected to be out for 2-4 weeks after abdominal surgery on Jan. 17, after playing just 10 games this season.  

    The Capitals recently slipped into 9th position in the East after a 4-2 loss to Florida.  

    With stars like Mike Green out of the lineup, Washington's postseason chances are looking grim.  

Jeff Skinner

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    Concussions are a growing issue in the NHL; and even more so when the youngest and most promising stars in the game fall victim.  

    The Carolina Hurricanes and Eric Staal got off to a horrible start this season; with the play of Jeff Skinner the only bright spot on the team.  

    The concussion sidelined Skinner for 16 games; a period which saw the Hurricanes fall to last in the East, where they still remain.  

    Luckily for Carolina, Skinner has picked up where he left off; with two goals and two assists in six games. 

    Unfortunately, his return still doesn't change the fact that Carolina likely won't be seeing the playoffs this season.  

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

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    The Oilers were finally looking like a playoff threat for the first time in five years, led by their 18-year-old rookie, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

    On Jan. 2, Nugent-Hopkins caught an edge and fell awkwardly into the boards, injuring his shoulder.  

    He's been out of the lineup since that date. In that time, the team has gone 3-7-2, falling to 29th in the league.  

    Although Nugent-Hopkins is expected to return on the Oilers' current road trip, his missed games will likely result in the team missing the playoffs and becoming sellers.  

James Wisniewski

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    Along with Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski was the big addition to the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.  

    Whether it's been injury or suspension, his play has been seriously limited. He's now been out since late December, having played just 29 games this season.  

    When he has been healthy, he has shown promise though; ranking third on the team in P/G.  

    As one of the most offensive defensemen in the past few years, Wisniewski's run with Columbus will likely be a good one.  

    The Blue Jackets might as well forget about this season and look to next year.  

Roberto Luongo

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    Not all injuries are bad for the team.  Back in November, Roberto Luongo missed five games with an "upper body" injury.  

    During the five games, backup goaltender Cory Schneider stepped up to the plate. He won five games in a row, picking up the game's first star each time.  

    If Schneider's performance in those five games (and since) hasn't started a goalie controversy, it has surely increased his trade value.  

    With Luongo locked up for such a long period, Schneider will likely be moving elsewhere, and from what we've seen from him, teams will be willing to give up a lot.  

Nicklas Backstrom

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    As mentioned earlier, the Capitals and their captain, Alexander Ovechkin are a midst quite a disappointing season.

    The one positive aspect of their game was the play of Nicklas Backstrom. With 42 points in 38 games, Backstrom was not only the backbone of the team, but among the league's best.

    On Jan. 3, Calgary forward Rene Bourque delivered a dirty hit to the Washington center, resulting in a concussion. Backstrom is still out today, with no return date in sight. 

    The 9th place Capitals, set to welcome back Ovechkin after a three-game suspension, will need help from Backstrom and Mike Green if they're going to start playing like the powerhouse we all expected.  

Kris Letang

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    With Sidney Crosby only playing eight games, and still out for an indefinite amount of time, the Pittsburgh Penguins will rely heavily on players like Malkin, Neal and Kris Letang.  

    Letang was on his way for a career season (something that is still possible), when he received a blind-side hit from Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty in November.  

    Letang missed 22 games from the incident, a period which saw the Penguins struggle at times; with a six-game losing streak at one point. 

    Luckily, Evgeni Malkin's outstanding play kept the team in check in Letang's absence. Letang has since returned, and the Penguins are yet again among the league's best.  

    With the news of Crosby's diagnosis and the probability that he will make a return near the end of this season, the Penguins are looking to be a serious Stanley Cup threat.  

Mikko Koivu

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    Injuries hurt a team enough, but when it's to the team-captain and offensive leader, the team is in for a hard stretch.  

    That's what happened to the Minnesota Wild when Mikko Koivu injured his shoulder on Jan. 14.  

    The once Northwest leading Wild now sit at eighth in the West.  

    The captain's return is expected in the next week or so, which will provide a much-needed lift for the team.  

Peter Mueller

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    Not all long-term concussions end bad. Colorado Avalanche forward Peter Mueller was looking to follow in the footsteps of Eric Lindros, with a career of continuous concussion struggles.  

    After missing all of last season, Mueller made his return early this season to play just three games before suffering a setback. 

    After being sidelined for another three months, Mueller has returned yet again. In his nine games since his second return, the young forward has four goals and one assist. 

    If he's able to avoid any more setbacks, a great career can be expected from the 23-year-old, while vastly increasing the Avalanche's playoff hopes in the process.  

Chris Pronger

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    When it was announced that Chris Pronger would miss the remainder of the season with a diagnosis of "severe post-concussion symptoms", it wasn't just the Philadelphia Flyers' season that was in question.  

    With a history of concussions, and the severity of his current symptoms, many are wondering if this injury will force yet another early retirement from a star player.  

    Without the captain and shut-down defenseman, the Flyers will likely be forced to pick up a d-man as the trade deadline approaches if they intend on being true contenders.  

Sidney Crosby

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    Sidney Crosby truly has stolen the headlines this season, and why not? Concussions have always been a problem in the NHL, and now they have a face.  

    Whether it's the constant "updates" that nothing has changed, his attempted return, or the "new diagnosis" that just had to be announced on All-Star weekend, there hasn't been much room for anyone else in the news.  

    The new diagnosis, originally thought to be a vertebra fracture but later discovered as a soft tissue injury, clarifies his continuous struggles as well as gives hope to the Penguins.  

    While his attempted return was unsuccessful, his eight games played did show us something: he's still the best player in the world.  

    With four points in his first game back, and 12 points in his 8 played, the anticipation is immense regarding his return.  

    The Penguins' captain is still confident that a return will be made this season, so we can expect his name to be dominating the headlines for the foreseeable future.