Nothing can put a damper on an NHL season like the injury bug. The impact of injured players will be amplified by 2013's shortened season; with the sprint-to-the-finish pace of a compact schedule, the health of its players may make or break a team's season.
On January 13, only a day into training camps, several teams are skating without key players in their lineups.
Here is an up-to-date look at some injury concerns heading into the 2013 NHL season.
The Calgary Flames were hoping to add a top-six forward in 2013 with Roman Cervenka, but they may have to wait a few weeks for his debut.
Several sources, including NBC Sports, are reporting that the young center is having issues with blood clots. While he is taking the proper medication and has been cleared to fly, it's unknown if the promising Cervenka will be available to the Flames for their season-opener against the San Jose Sharks on January 20.
Beware, the curse of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After being selected second overall in the NHL entry draft last summer, Ryan Murray dislocated his shoulder—an injury that required season-ending surgery on January 10—and could face a recovery time of more than six months.
The Jackets just can't catch a break, and that bad luck extended itself all the way to Murray. The team hopes for a full recovery as Murray is slated to anchor the blue line for the next decade.
Speedy Detroit Red Wings center Darren Helm reportedly tweaked a muscle while working out this week, and he is being monitored daily. At the least, he's expected to miss the beginning of training camp.
This is just another setback in what has been a year to forget for Helm, who has missed a lot of time with several different injuries. He's expected to center one of Detroit's bottom two lines, and his forechecking presence will be missed while he is on the mend.
The MRI on his back came back negative, and he will start skating "as soon as he is able," but until he returns, he will remain a concern for the Wings.
The biggest name on any team who may not start the season is Anze Kopitar.
While there are much worse knee injuries than a sprain—what Kopitar is suffering from—it will still prevent the should-have-been All-Star center from playing a game or two for the LA Kings. While missing a few games typically wouldn't be a huge deal, the truncated season format puts the spotlight on the injury.
The Kings have enough depth to keep the goals up during Kopitar's absence, but missing players like this is never a good way to start.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are only a goaltender short from being able to do damage in the Eastern Conference. GM Steve Yzerman aggressively tackled that problem when he acquired Anders Lindback from the Nashville Predators.
One knee injury later, there are questions about his ability to start the season for the Lightning.
He has apparently been looking better the last few days, but knee injuries can be tricky. Lightning fans will be concerned until Lindback gets a few games under his belt.
Zack Kassian was the central piece in the Cody Hodgson deal, projected as the power forward and sandpaper guy that the Vancouver Canucks sorely needed.
He hasn't had an easy go of it since arriving in Vancouver. Kassian's stint with the Chicago Wolves during the lockout has been hampered by lingering back spasms. That's something he'll need to shake for good if he's going to have the impact the Canucks were hoping for when they acquired him from the Buffalo Sabres.
Tuomo Ruutu is one of the more underrated and well-rounded players in the NHL, and his loss won't be an easy one for the Carolina Hurricanes to overcome right out of the gate.
The talented forward had hip surgery in January and will likely be out until April at the earliest.
The 'Canes were very aggressive over the summer in trading for Jordan Staal and signing Alex Semin to a big-money deal, but any progress will likely be made without Ruutu.
Tomas Plekanec has been forced to take it easy while skating with teammates, waiting for a nagging rib injury to fully heal.
While the injury isn't thought to be overly serious, ribs can take time to heal properly, especially for a professional athlete who takes occasional hits for a living. The good news is that he is skating and may miss only a little time. The Montreal Canadiens will need him back and kicking, as he is slotted as the team's second-line center.
Andrej Meszaros is now racing against time as he tries to get ready for the shortened 2013 season. He was recently cleared for full activity last Monday, January 7, but that does not mean he'll be ready to jump into games right away.
The good news is that Meszaros can now begin skating and working out in an attempt to get back into shape. The Achilles tendon injury has had him on the shelf since last August, but the Philadelphia Flyers desperately need him to return to healthy status, as the team has enough holes to fill on its blue line already.
Suffering from an injured shoulder and wrist, Ryan Kesler is still questionable for the start of the season.
A few days ago, Vancouver Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman told TEAM1040 radio that he wasn't sure when Kesler would be able to return to action. Even if he is cleared for games, his lack of conditioning may be a cause for concern. The Canucks would be wise not to rush him back into games before his durability is back where it needs to be.