2013 NHL Season: Top 7 Injury Concerns During the Shortened Schedule

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2013

2013 NHL Season: Top 7 Injury Concerns During the Shortened Schedule

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    It's Game On in the National Hockey League, and that means that teams will have to be concerned about injuries (source: TSN.ca).

    Players who were hurt last year may be coming back, while other injuries linger and will take longer to overcome.

    While the lockout was going on, many players competed in the KHL and other overseas leagues. That competition leads to injuries.

    Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings suffered a knee injury that will not allow him to play when the schedule begins. However, there may be other players who have suffered injuries overseas, and the full extent may not be known.

    Here's a look at seven immediate injury concerns.

Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins

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    Nathan Horton was a playoff hero for the Boston Bruins during their 2011 Stanley Cup run.

    Horton scored two overtime goals in their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens, including the series-winning blast in the seventh game. Horton also scored the only goal in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    However, in the finals, he suffered a devastating concussion against the Vancouver Canucks in the third game and missed the rest of the series.

    While he returned at the start of last season, he suffered another concussion in January and did not play the rest of the year.

    That means when the 2012-13 season starts, Horton will have been out of action for about a year.

    The Bruins say that their medical staff has cleared Horton to play, but he will clearly be rusty and it may take him more time to get up to game speed than his teammates.

    He is a critical piece of the Bruins' puzzle and he needs to be healthy if the Bruins are going to have a legitimate chance to contend again.

Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Marian Hossa suffered a concussion after absorbing a brutal hit to the head from Raffi Torres in last spring's playoff series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Phoenix Coyotes.

    The hit sidelined Hossa for the rest of the series, and Torres was suspended 25 games for the hit (later reduced to 21 games by Gary Bettman).

    The 33-year-old Hossa has scored 417 goals and 904 points in his career.

    Hossa was medically cleared to play in mid-December, according to the Chicago Tribune.

    Like Horton, it may take him a while to get up to game speed.

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

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    Anze Kopitar is one of the engines that drives the Los Angeles Kings.

    If they are going to defend the Stanley Cup that they won last June, Kopitar will almost certainly play a key role.

    He will likely start the season on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury that has been described as "minor" while playing for Mora IK in the Swedish Elite League.

    The injury took place in early January, and Kopitar called it a sprain. He was on his way back to Los Angeles to get an MRI on the injury when the lockout tentatively ended.

    If the MRI does not reveal any serious damage, Kopitar could be back by the end of January or beginning of February.

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

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    Ryan Kesler underwent surgery on his left shoulder in May and his left wrist in June.

    He has not fully recovered at this point and there is no timetable for his return to the ice, according to TSN.ca.

    "Our goal for Ryan is that he's able to play the next 10 years, not the next two months," Kesler's agent Kurt Overhardt told TSN.ca. "We are working with the club closely on his recovery and we are all on the same page."

    Kesler scored 22 goals and 27 assists last year and is one of the top all-around players in the NHL when healthy.

Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils

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    Adam Henrique was one of the Devils' top playoff heroes last year, scoring the double-overtime goal that eliminated the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs and then scoring another overtime goal in the Eastern Conference Finals to eliminate the New York Rangers.

    Henrique scored 16 goals and 51 points during the regular season as a rookie last year. Much more is expected this season, especially with the departure of Zach Parise to Minnesota through free agency.

    Henrique suffered a thumb injury in early December while playing with the Albany Devils of the AHL (source: NBCSports.com). The injury was originally thought to keep him out for four to six weeks.

    However, the cast did not come off the injury until early January, and it will take at least four more weeks of rehab before he can play again.

Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Tuomo Ruutu was thought to be fine when the season ended for the Hurricanes in April, as he passed his season-ending physical.

    However, he started complaining of pain in his hip in August. He recently had surgery, and he will likely miss the entire regular season.

    If the Hurricanes make the playoffs, Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said Ruutu could return, but it may not be in the first round (source: CBSSports.com).

Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars

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    Brenden Morrow scored 33 goals for the Dallas Stars in 2010-11.

    However, he suffered a slew of injuries last year and scored 11 goals in 57 games.

    Morrow says he is still not confident of his overall condition. He still has some issues with his neck, back and shoulder (source: CBSSports.com).

    Morrow is known for his physical and rugged play. If he is not 100 percent, he can't assert himself, and it may be hard for him to play with his usual style, which may force head coach Glen Gulutzan to keep him off the ice.