One of the most disappointing parts of the first week and a half of the 2012-13 NHL season is the amount of injuries to star players.
With the shortened season forcing teams to play more games per week than in a normal 82-game schedule—including an increased number of back-to-back games—teams must be careful to not allow an injured player to return to the ice before he's fully ready.
Let's look at some NHL teams dealing with injures to key players.
Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog
Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has suffered two kinds of injuries as a result of the big hit he took from San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart on Saturday.
Adrian Dater of the Denver Post has the latest updates on the 20-year-old winger:
No timetable on Landeskog's return. Avs thought he was OK entering today, but obviously symptoms developed. Horrible news for Avs— adater (@adater) January 28, 2013
Landeskog's injuries are to head and left leg. Avs not saying it's a concussion, but also not saying it isn't— adater (@adater) January 28, 2013
Concussions very often only surface a day or two later after a hit. While it's not known for sure yet Landy has one, it could be— adater (@adater) January 28, 2013
Without Landeskog in the lineup, the Avalanche played their worst game of the season on Monday night in a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
After already losing veteran forward Steve Downie for the rest of the season with an ACL injury, Colorado cannot afford to miss another top-six forward in Landeskog for a long period of time.
With that said, it's important that the Avalanche give their captain all the time he needs to be 100 percent healthy before returning to the ice. He's too important to the team's future success to be thrown into game action too early.
The Avalanche will need star forwards Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and P.A. Parenteau to play at a high level and produce offensively while Landeskog is unable to play for the team to win consistently.
Montreal Canadiens: Max Pacioretty
The Montreal Canadiens' offense has taken a hit with the news that star forward Max Pacioretty could miss up to a month recovering from surgery.
Max Pacioretty underwent an emergency appendicectomy tonight in Montreal - Out 3 to 4 weeks.— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) January 27, 2013
Pacioretty had a career year last season with 33 goals and 32 assists in 79 games. He was rewarded with a six-year, $27 million contract in August.
Montreal is fortunate to have a talented top-six forward group, so head coach Michel Therrien's team should be able to maintain its impressive offensive play while Pacioretty is out of the lineup. The Canadiens are currently eighth in goals scored and have the sixth-best power-play percentage in the NHL.
General manager Marc Bergevin decided not to send top prospects Brendon Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk back to juniors this week, and these players will be expected to make a bigger impact in the offense while Pacioretty misses games recovering from surgery.
Pacioretty's goal scoring and playmaking ability is an important part of the Canadiens' offense, but luckily for the team, he should return at about the halfway point of the season.
Nashville Predators: Patric Hornqvist
The Nashville Predators had very little scoring depth and talent at forward coming into this season, and the recent injury suffered by Patric Hornqvist will force head coach Barry Trotz to adjust his lines even more to try and find some productive combinations.
According to Kevin Wilson of Predators.com, the 26-year-old winger will be out of the lineup for a while.
. @predsnhl forward Patric Hornqvist will be out 3-4 weeks with a sprained knee— KWilsonPreds (@KWilsonPreds) January 29, 2013
Hornqvist has scored 40-plus points and 20 or more goals in each of the last three seasons, and is a key part of the Predators offense, which ranks 28th in goal scoring this season.
The only Nashville players with more than two points scored this season are Hornqvist and top-line forward Martin Erat, so there are plenty of guys who need to step up while Hornqvist is injured.
One of those players whose performance must improve is superstar defenseman Shea Weber, who is still scoreless after six games, and also has a plus/minus rating of minus-one. He's certainly not earning his $14 million salary thus far.
Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza
There aren't many details available on Ottawa Senators star forward Jason Spezza's recent injury. Sportsnet's Ian Mendes has the latest update.
They're calling Spezza's injury "upper body" at this point.— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) January 29, 2013
MacLean says that Spezza will not play tonight. He will be further evaluated, but sounds like he's day-to-day.— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) January 29, 2013
The Sens do not know how or when Spezza sustained his injury on Sunday night. He came to the rink on Monday with the injury.— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) January 29, 2013
The Senators have enough scoring depth to win games if Spezza has to miss a short period of time with his injury, even though the 29-year-old winger is Ottawa's most talented goal scorer and led the team in points last season.
Spezza is a major part of the team's power-play, which is the eighth-best in the NHL, and he also provides leadership as an alternate captain.
In his absence, Senators head coach Paul MacLean will need star forwards Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris to continue their strong starts to the season and score goals consistently.
Philadelphia Flyers: Scott Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros
The Flyers offense received a boost when star center Danny Briere returned to the lineup on Saturday after recovering from a wrist injury, but the team will be without star winger Scott Hartnell and top-four defenseman Andrej Meszaros for the foreseeable future, according to Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com:
Hartnell out indefinitely Holmgren says with left foot injury. So Flyers lose two players to injury and suspension before meeting nyr— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) January 23, 2013
Holmgren confirms Meszaros has a left shoulder injury - wont be specific. He;'s out a month. Lilja being recalled. flyers D is in trouble— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) January 25, 2013
Philadelphia has started the season 2-4 (1-3 on the road), and if the team fails to improve soon, general manager Paul Holmgren will have to make a trade to add some much-needed depth to his roster.
Luckily for the Flyers, they don't have a tough schedule in the month of February, when eight of their 15 games are against the Southeast Division, which is arguably the weakest division in the league.
The Flyers are only one point out of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference despite their horrendous start to the season, but they need to start winning games consistently if they want to avoid having to fight for a playoff spot late in the season.
Phoenix Coyotes: Mike Smith
After a terrible start to the season, the last thing that the Phoenix Coyotes need is for the team's goaltending depth to be hurt by an injury.
According to NHL.com, starting goaltender Mike Smith has been put on injured reserve.
The Phoenix Coyotes placed goalie Mike Smith on the injured reserve list Monday retroactive to Jan. 23, when he suffered a groin injury in pregame warm-ups and lasted only nine minutes against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In the three games he has played this season, Smith is 0-2 with a 4.36 GAA and a .836 save percentage. If the Coyotes start to fall out of the playoff race while Smith is unable to play, general manager Don Maloney should consider a trade to acquire a better backup goaltender than Jason LaBarbera.
Phoenix is already six points behind the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division, and are just one point from the bottom of the Western Conference standings. If Smith misses a lot of games due to injury, the Coyotes could miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season. He's one player they cannot afford to be without for a long period of time.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Joffrey Lupul, Clarke MacArthur, Mike Komisarek
Just like last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are having a lot of injury issues to deal with, which is hurting the team's depth.
Star winger Joffrey Lupul will miss quite a few games after suffering a broken forearm last week (via TSN's Gord Miller), and the Leafs are 0-2 since the 29-year-old veteran left the lineup.
In addition to Lupul's injury, Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle will also be without left winger Clarke MacArthur (via Jonas Siegel of TSN 1050) and veteran defenseman Mike Komisarek (via 590 The Fan) on Tuesday night.
Mike Komisarek suffered a minor eye injury, he is cleared to play but will miss Toronto's game tonight vs. the #Sabres— SN 590 The FAN (@FAN590) January 29, 2013
Randy Carlyle said he feels no pressure to play Jake Gardiner, may or may not be in tonight. Clarke MacArthur is out.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) January 29, 2013
The question surrounding the Leafs is how long will general manager Dave Nonis wait before he makes a trade to strengthen the team's chances of making the playoffs.
Carlyle needs another defenseman because rookie Mike Kostka shouldn't have to play 31 minutes in a single game like he did on Saturday against the New York Rangers. He could also use another top-six forward with Lupul unable to play and Phil Kessel struggling to produce offensively.
Regardless of who Nonis adds to the roster over the next few weeks, the Leafs' success this season will be determined by the performances of goaltenders James Reimer and Ben Scrivens.