NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Biggest Injury Questions for Each Team
Playoff hockey is difficult enough when teams are completely healthy, but when you add in injuries to the equation, it becomes a coaching nightmare.
Each team in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs has injury concerns. They range from nagging injuries that players may be able to play through, to devastating blows that leave teams dangerously short-handed on their rosters.
I have broken them down by series.
L.A. Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks
Jeff Carter, L.A. Kings
The Kings have played very well in their first round series against the Canucks, despite a lackluster performance by Jeff Carter.
Carter, who was acquired at the trade deadline, is one of the few offensive weapons that the Kings have. After missing the last five games of the regular season, Carter returned, and has played in all three playoff games. Carter needs to regain his form and help the Kings close out the series at home.
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have struggled to score in their series against the L.A. Kings, and most of that is because Daniel Sedin has been sidelined with a concussion. Sedin has returned to practice, and will hopefully play in Game 4.
However, with the Canucks down 0-3, Daniel Sedin may not be enough to dig them out of the hole. The Canucks are looking at a first round exit after getting all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburg Penguins
Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have had their way with the Penguins the entire series, and look poised to close things out at home in Game 4. However, concussion issues for Brayden Schenn cause concern for rest of the series against the Penguins, and the next round, if the Flyers advance.
Schenn, in his first year with the Flyers, has contributed nicely in the playoffs. He has four assists and a goal in just three games and losing him for any period of time would be a blow to the Flyers.
Matt Niskanen, Pittsburgh Penguins
Suffering from a shoulder injury, Matt Niskanen was able to return to play in the 8-4 loss to the Flyers on Sunday.
With the series turning into a shootout, defense is at a premium, and Niskanen needs to stay healthy and help turn things around for the Penguins. Following the ejection of Kris Letang, Niskanen was forced to play more minutes. Hopefully, that can accelerate his comeback.
St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks
Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues
The Blues' best goalie hurt his ankle in Game 2, and was unable to play in Game 3. The injury forced backup Brian Elliot, who is having a career year, to start in Halak’s place.
Despite having a good year, Elliot, who is dinged up as well, lacks playoff experience. The Blues will need to step up and make things easy for Elliot if they want to advance to the second round.
Dominic Moore, San Jose Sharks
Fortunately, the Sharks are in pretty good shape, in regards to their team’s health. The only injury to report is the broken nose that Moore received from a sucker punch by the Blues' Vladimir Sobotka.
Moore is listed as day-to-day, but the Sharks aren’t too concerned. Their third line center should return for Game 4.
New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators
Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers
McDonagh was injured in the Game 2 loss by Senators forward Chris Neil. McDonagh returned to the lineup for Game 3 and played over 25 minutes.
McDonagh needs to stay healthy, as he is an integral part of the Rangers defense and their ability to stop the Senators top scoring line.
Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators
Alfredsson was injured by Rangers forward Carl Hagelin during the Senators Game 2 win, and was unable to return for Game 3. It looks like Alfredsson will miss Game 4 unless he makes substantial progress.
Without Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek will need to improve offensively in order to tie the series up 2-2.
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Lauri Korpikoski, Phoenix Coyotes
Korpikoski was the Coyotes fourth leading scorer during the regular season, and is suffering from a lower body injury that resulted from an incident with Duncan Keith.
Korpikoski should be able to play in Game 3, and the Coyotes can’t afford to lose his offense. While Korpikoski isn’t as important as Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata, or Shane Doan, he is an important piece to the Coyotes' success.
Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks
Before last night, I would have said Jonathan Toews concussion was the Blackhawks biggest concern. However, after the vicious hit on Marian Hossa by Phoenix’s Raffi Torres, Hossa will be lucky to return.
Hossa was released from the hospital, which is a good sign for the Blackhawks, but if he can’t return, they will have a hard time winning their first round series.
Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals
Adam McQuaid, Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins have had their fair share of injuries this year, but aside from Nathan Horton being ruled out for the playoffs, and Adam McQuaid’s upper-body injury, they are fairly healthy.
McQuaid is an important piece in the Bruins defensive scheme. He may not be as skilled as other defensemen on the Bruins, but he is a smart, physical player, who doesn’t shy away from big hits or fights.
McQuaid intimidates opponents, and the Bruins could use him in what has been a physical series against the Capitals.
Tomas Vokoun, Washington Capitals
The Capitals are playing without their starting goalie from the regular season. Tomas Vokoun is battling through a groin injury that has kept him out of the lineup since March.
Their backup goalie is also hurt and they have been forced to start 22-year old Braden Holtby. Holtby has been more than serviceable, but with only 18 career starts before the playoffs began, Vokoun needs to get healthy and return as the Capitals starting goalie.
Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings
Hal Gill, Nashville Predators
Gill was acquired at the trading deadline to shore up the Predators defense for the playoffs. The hulking defenseman suffered a lower body injury after blocking a shot in the last week of the season.
Gill has yet to play in the series against the Red Wings, and a return to the ice would be a boost for the Predators. Gill’s return would ease the pressure on the rest of the defensemen, who are trying to contain the talented Red Wings' forwards.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
After being riddled with injuries for most of the second half of the regular season, the Red Wings were healthy entering the playoffs.
Pavel Datsyuk suffered a knee injury and had surgery in February, but has returned to the lineup following a month off. Datsyuk is the Red Wings best offensive player, and if they want to get past the division rival Predators, he will have to return to Hart trophy candidate from.
Florida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils
Marco Sturm, Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers lone injury is to forward Marco Sturm. He suffered a lower back injury at the end of the regular season.
Sturm has been able to play so far in the playoffs, but fortunately for the Panthers, if he has a setback and can't go, he isn’t one of their top-six forwards. Though he would be missed, it wouldn’t be a devastating blow for the team.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are struggling to upset the Southeast division champs in the first round. Unfortunately, they can’t blame their losses on injuries, as they are one of the few healthy teams in the playoffs.
At this point of the year, everyone is dinged up to a degree. The Devils biggest injury concern is simply continuing to stay healthy. The Devils can’t afford an injury to either Ilya Kovalchuck or Zach Parise, as either injury would make it nearly impossible for them to advance.