Injuries are the biggest concern for NHL teams as they prepare for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Many players chose not to play overseas during the lockout and now will have just a few days of practices before having to play in real games at full speed. Doing this can cause lots of small injuries, or even ones that take a long time to recover from.
Let's look at each NHL team's biggest injury question heading into the new season.
A late-season shoulder injury bothered Corey Perry last year and prevented him from making a strong impact offensively for the Anaheim Ducks.
The injury also ended his 272-consecutive-games-played streak.
Perry was the Hart Trophy winner two years ago, but had a subpar (by his standards) season in 2011-12, as his scoring dropped 38 points.
The Ducks need a healthy Perry to have any chance of making the playoffs this year.
Tuukka Rask battled a groin injury last year that caused him to miss the last month of the regular season.
The Boston Bruins goaltender played overseas in the Czech Republic during the lockout and performed at a high level. More importantly, he did not re-aggravate his injury from last year.
Even though he's coming into the 2012-13 season healthy, a lot of Bruins fans are still worried about his ability to play a full season. Rask hasn't played more than 29 games in a single season since 2009-10.
Boston cannot win the Stanley Cup without a healthy Rask come playoff time.
Cody Hodgson broke his hand back in November, but he made a successful comeback to the AHL and will be an important part of the Buffalo Sabres offense this season.
The Sabres finished 17th in goal scoring last year, and Hodgson's disappointing play following his arrival from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline was not expected.
He did play well in the AHL during the lockout, scoring five goals with 14 assists in 19 games. Due to the Sabres' lack of depth at center, Hodgson should play a top-six role this season, so Buffalo needs him to be healthy consistently.
Injuries limited Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund to just 41 games last season, and with the departure of top-line center Olli Jokinen in free agency over the summer, Backlund will likely start the season as the team's second-line center.
The Flames are going to need Backlund to be much more productive than he was last season. He scored just four goals with seven assists in the 41 games he played.
If he's not healthy, it's going to be hard for him to play well on a consistent basis.
There are high expectations for the Carolina Hurricanes this year after the additions they made in the offseason, but according to ESPN's Craig Custance, head coach Kirk Muller will not have one of his top wingers available for the regular season:
If season starts soon, Hurricanes will have to do it without Tuomo Ruutu. Told hip surgery will sideline him until May 1 at the earliest.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) January 2, 2013
Luckily for the Hurricanes, they added Alexander Semin in free agency to give them more depth and scoring on the wings, and now will have to rely on the Russian star to have a bounce-back season with Ruutu injured for a lengthy period of time.
Marian Hossa's 2011-12 season ended with a concussion in the first round of the playoffs, but according to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, he's all set for the new season:
According to a source, #Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa has been medically cleared by team following recovery from concussion.— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) December 12, 2012
Hossa led the Blackhawks in assists and scoring last season, so he's a very important part of their offense.
If star winger Patrick Kane fails to improve his offensive production after a subpar 2011-12 season, Hossa's performances will have an even greater impact on Chicago's success.
Matt Duchene will enter this season motivated to perform at a high level again following a 2011-12 season in which he battled injury and only played in 58 games.
The Avalanche finished 24th in goals scored last season and need Duchene back in the lineup because he's their best center when healthy.
In a division with several teams that can score a lot of goals, Colorado will need all of its top-six forwards healthy to have a chance at earning a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
John Moore is one of the many talented young defenseman whom the Columbus Blue Jackets have for the future, but the 22-year-old has not played much in the AHL since December, according to Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch:
#CBJ D John Moore has been out of Springfield lineup for 3 weeks. Club not saying, but he took big hit vs. St. John's, appeared concussed.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) January 6, 2013
With No. 2 overall pick Ryan Murry unavailable this season because of an injury, Moore was expected to play an important role on the Blue Jackets blue line.
Columbus finished 28th in goals against last year, so they cannot afford to have too many injured defensemen and expect to start the season strongly. Their defensive depth will be tested this year.
Brenden Morrow played in just 57 games last year due to injury, and for the Dallas Stars to make the playoffs this season, they need the scoring, toughness and leadership that their captain provides each game.
The Stars need their bottom-six to give the team's offense the depth needed to beat the top teams in the Western Conference, and as Dallas' third-line left winger, Morrow is an important part of the lineup.
The Detroit Red Wings blue line was already weak coming into this season, but with the news that veteran defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo will be sidelined for a few weeks (via Bob Duff of The Windsor Star), head coach Mike Babcock will have even more concerns about his defense in training camp:
Colaiacovo was signed to give Detroit a veteran presence on the blue line after defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart left the team following last season.
Top prospect Brendan Smith will have to step up while Colaiacovo is out of the lineup.
Ryan Jones scored 33 points (16 goals and 17 assists) last season and gave the Edmonton Oilers some needed bottom-six depth.
According to Bob Stauffer of 630 CHED, Jones won't be ready to start the season because of an injury:
Ryan Jones has suffered an eye injury. Do not know full extent of injury. Sounds like he could be out several weeks— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) January 6, 2013
The Oilers have a great top-six forward group, but to make the playoffs, they need more production from their third and fourth lines.
Jones has improved his scoring in each of the last two years, and Edmonton will need him to continue that progress when he returns from injury.
Florida Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski has dealt with a few injuries over the last few years and hasn't played a full season in four.
Over the last three seasons, the 36-year-old has missed 64 games and didn't play in more than 66 games in any of those years.
Jovanovski isn't the same offensive player he once was, but the intelligence and leadership he brings to the ice is important. The Panthers need him to play well defensively this season.
The Los Angeles Kings offense finished 29th in goals scored last season, and if star center Anze Kopitar misses the start of the regular season, the defending champions will need other players to step up.
Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times has the latest update on the Kings' top scorer from last year:
Brisson previously estimated 2-3 weeks for recovery. He said further evaluation should make things clearer after Kopitar gets to LA on Weds.— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) January 7, 2013
Despite the fact that the Kings have great center depth, losing Kopitar is a major loss for the team's offense. He led Los Angeles in goals, assists and points last season, and also 20 points in 20 games during the team's Stanley Cup run.
The Kings should be able to score enough goals while Kopitar is hurt, but if he's out for an extended period of time, the team's chances of defending their championship will decrease significantly.
Niklas Backstrom had offseason surgery on his ankle, and for the Minnesota Wild to make the playoffs in the Western Conference this season, they need their starting goaltender to be healthy consistently.
Josh Harding is a quality backup goalie, but Backstrom has to play at a high level for the Wild to contend in a much-improved Northwest Division that includes high-powered offenses in Vancouver and Edmonton.
If Backstrom can stay healthy, the Wild should make the playoffs because their offense improved quite a bit with the offseason additions of star forward Zach Parise and top defenseman Ryan Suter.
With star goaltender Carey Price healthy and ready for the new season, the return of top defenseman Andrei Markov to the Montreal Canadiens lineup could be enough to help the team earn a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
You cannot compete in the Northeast Division unless you can defend well consistently. Markov is the Canadiens' best defensive player, but he has struggled to make the lineup over the last few years because of injury.
Markov has missed 144 games over the last two seasons, and until he can play a full season without being impacted by injuries, Canadiens fans will continue to worry about his ability to be healthy consistently.
The good news is that Markov played in the KHL during the lockout and didn't suffer an injury that will prevent him from playing in the Canadiens' season opener.
Martin Erat is one of the most reliable Nashville Predators forwards and is likely to score 50 or more points in a normal 82-game season.
Erat has missed 48 games over the last four seasons, which isn't a ton, but he is 33 years old. Nashville is going to need his playmaking and goal scoring to earn a playoff spot in the Western Conference this season and cannot afford to lose Erat for an extended period of time.
The New Jersey Devils are hoping that young star Adam Henrique can build off his remarkable 2011-12 season and keep developing as a top-six forward, but he won't have that opportunity when the team plays its first game, according to Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger:
Lamoriello said Adam Henrique is out of his cast (left thumb) and is undergoing therapy. He won't be ready to start the season.— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) January 6, 2013
Even though Henqriue is very important to the Devils' offensive success, the team cannot rush him back from this injury.
Veteran forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias will have to play at a high level while Henrique is out of the lineup.
New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner's offensive production dropped 20 points last season, and according to Arthur Staple of Newsday, he is dealing with an injury:
Michael Grabner hasn't played in his native Austria since Nov. 30 because of an abdominal muscle tear.
Grabner has a lot of talent and is a promising young player, and for the Islanders to make the playoffs, they need a bounce-back season from the 25-year-old when he returns to the team.
New York Rangers winger Marian Gaborik can begin the year healthy (via Steve Zipay of Newsday) and not have to miss any regular-season games since the lockout went into January:
Torts confirms that Marian Gaborik has been ready and is good to go— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) January 7, 2013
Will he stay healthy for the entire year? That's the biggest concern for the Rangers this season, who need their top goal scorer in the lineup consistently to win the Stanley Cup, even after the acquisition of superstar Rick Nash.
Gaborik played all 82 games last year for the first time in his career, and Rangers fans are hoping he plays all 48 this season. When he's healthy and on the ice consistently, the Rangers offense is tough to stop.
Jared Cowen isn't coming back to the Ottawa Senators anytime soon as he recovers from a hip injury, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie:
Couple of noteworthy injury reminders: Jared Cowen in OTT (hip) and Ryan Murray in CBJ (shoulder) out long term.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 6, 2013
While Cowen is injured, the Senators need strong early-season performances from veteran defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips.
For Ottawa to finish second in the Northeast Division for the second consecutive season, they need to play well defensively because a poor start to the year would make it incredibly tough for the Senators to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
The success of the Philadelphia Flyers this season will be greatly impacted by the health of the team's defensemen.
According to Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com, Andrej Meszaros' status for the start of the season is unknown:
Meszaros is NOT certain he will start season. Says having trouble start/stop and push off. Sees doc today. Hesitation there— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) January 7, 2013
the Flyers defense is already suspect. If Meszaros can't start season, they are in BIG trouble. (cont)— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) January 7, 2013
Even if Ilya Bryzgalov improves this season and plays like a legitimate No. 1 goaltender, the Flyers are still going to need players like Timonen and Meszaros to have success on both ends of the ice. This cannot happen if they are often injured.
Since every team in the Atlantic Division has multiple top-tier forwards, the Flyers need to play well defensively to avoid a terrible start to the season. If they begin the year poorly, it could be tough for Philadelphia to just make the playoffs.
After losing top scorer Ray Whitney in free agency to Pacific Division rivals the Dallas Stars, the Phoenix Coyotes will need their defense and goaltending to carry them back to the playoffs this season.
Young star Oliver Ekman-Larsson suffered a foot injury recently, but it seems to be nothing major, according to Sarah McLellan of The Arizona Republic:
Ekman-Larsson took a puck off the foot, but team doesn't think bone bruise is serious. Just want to get him back here.— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) January 8, 2013
The Coyotes ranked fifth in goals against last season and need to maintain this impressive level of defensive success to make another deep playoff run in the Western Conference.
There will be no chance of a Stanley Cup parade happening in the streets of Pittsburgh in June if superstar forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin don't stay healthy this season.
Without their two best players, the Penguins would not advance past the first round of the playoffs.
Pittsburgh doesn't have the goaltending or defensive talent/depth to win the Stanley Cup if one, or both, of their two best players misses a lot of games this season.
The last time that both Crosby and Malkin played 70 or more games in the same season was 2008-09 when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.
Martin Havlat was acquired by the San Jose Sharks before last season to add some needed depth and scoring on the wings, but the veteran forward wasn't able to provide the team with much offense because he missed 43 games due to injury.
The Sharks won't make a deep playoff run if top-six forwards such as Havlat don't make an impact offensively because of injuries.
San Jose doesn't have quality goaltending, so the team's offense must be firing on all cylinders come playoff time.
David Perron finished second on the St. Louis Blues in goals scored last season with 21 despite playing in just 57 games, and if he doesn't battle injury again this season, the 24-year-old winger could have a breakout year.
After missing just one game in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons combined, Perron has only played in 67 of the team's 164 regular-season games over the last two years.
If Perron stays healthy, the Blues will score enough goals to make a deep playoff run. He's extremely important to the Blues offense.
After scoring 40 goals in the 2007-08 season, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier hasn't scored more than 29 goals in each of the last four years.
He has missed 35 games over the last two years due to injury, and for the Lightning to return to the playoffs after a disappointing 2011-12 season, they need Lecavalier to play a full season.
Not only does Lecavalier greatly improve the Lightning offense when he's on the ice, he also impacts games with his toughness and physical style of play. He's a tremendous leader too.
A deep playoff run is an impossible challenge for the Lightning if Lecavalier isn't healthy come playoff time.
The development of young defenseman Jake Gardiner was one of the few positives to come out of the 2011-12 season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but his future development could be impacted by a concussion he suffered in December.
TSN's Darren Dreger has the latest update on the Leafs star:
Leafs\Marlies still hoping for improvement in Jake Gardiner's recovery from concussion. He's progressing slowly and will be awhile.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 8, 2013
When Gardiner comes back, it will be interesting to see how he plays: Will he play less physical? Will he play as many minutes as he did last season?
The Leafs will want to have Gardiner back in the lineup as soon as he's ready, but if Toronto starts the season poorly and quickly falls out of the playoff race, there would be no reason to have the 22-year-old defenseman come back this year.
At the moment, nobody really knows when Vancouver Canucks star Ryan Kesler will return to the lineup.
Maxim Lapierre and Manny Malhotra are the likely candidates to replace Kesler at center on the team's second line to start the season, but neither of them can give the Canucks the kind of production Kesler provides.
Here is the latest on his situation, via TSN:
"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 said. "We are working with the club closely on his recovery and we are all on the same page."
If the Canucks do trade goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Toronto Maple Leafs at some point before the season (or soon after it begins), don't be surprised if young center Tyler Bozak goes back to Vancouver. He's a quality offensive player and would be a great replacement for Kesler in the short-term.
The Washington Capitals will likely have a more offensive-minded approach this season with Hall of Fame forward Adam Oates taking over as the team's head coach, but don't expect the team to contend in the Eastern Conference without a healthy Nicklas Backstrom.
Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington got Alexander Ovechkin's assessment of his teammate's condition on Tuesday:
#CapitalsTalk Alex Ovechkin used the word "dizzy" when asked about Nicklas Backstrom. Not a good sign.— Chuck Gormley (@ChuckGormleyCSN) January 8, 2013
Backstrom is arguably a more important player to the Capitals' success than Ovechkin, and when you look at the captain's poor stats from last season, it's easy to understand how much he missed his No. 1 center.
The Swedish star averaged over a point per game last year, but only played in 42 games because of a concussion. If he misses a large portion of this season, the Capitals will have trouble making the playoffs.
Even though Zach Bogosian hasn't lived up to expectations since being drafted third overall in 2008, he is an important part of the Winnipeg Jets blue line.
According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, it's uncertain if the 22-year-old defenseman will be in the lineup on opening night:
Big question in WPG: health of Zach Bogosian. Coming off wrist surgery, 4-6 months. End of Jan is 5 months. Burmistrov out couple of weeks.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 6, 2013
Bogosian scored a career high 30 points (five goals and 25 assists) in 65 games last year. The Jets need him because their blue line won't provide the team with much offense if Bogosian misses a lot of time.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.