NHL Injuries: Latest Updates on Ryan Kesler, Wayne Simmonds and Top Stars
We have seen a lot of star players suffer injuries through the first two weeks of the 2013 NHL season, which has put a lot of pressure on head coaches to adjust their lines and determine which young players are capable of taking on more responsibility.
The depth of all 30 NHL teams is being tested in the early part of the season with AHL players and rookies being asked to play important roles while star players recover from injuries.
Let's look at the latest updates from around the league on star players' injuries.
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks star forward Ryan Kesler has begun to practice with the team after spending the last few months recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but according to ESPN's Craig Custance, there is no date set for his return to the lineup.
Chatted with Mike Gillis here in DC. Said Ryan Kesler skating with the team, didn't want to give timeline but that's good news for Canucks.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) February 3, 2013
The Canucks have started the season with an impressive 5-2-2 record, but Kesler's absence has been noticeable. Vancouver ranks 19th in goals scored and 21st in penalty killing, which are two areas where Kesler makes a huge impact.
Henrik Sedin is the only Canucks center with more than three points this season, so it's clear that head coach Alain Vigneault needs a lot more offensive production from the center position.
Kesler's ability to kill penalties, shut-down opposing team's best forwards and score goals makes him the most valuable forward on the team.
If Kesler stays healthy when he returns, will Vancouver win the West?
If the 28-year-old superstar is able to return to the Canucks lineup and stay healthy, general manager Mike Gillis won't have to acquire a top-six center before the April 3 trade deadline.
Vancouver will not win the Stanley Cup if Kesler is hurt in the playoffs, so it's important for the team to not rush him back to the ice.
Luckily for the Canucks, they lead the Northwest Division with 12 points, so there's no need to worry about when Kesler is going to make his season debut. Vancouver has failed to take points from just two games this year.
Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers star Wayne Simmonds suffered a concussion last week when Washington Capitals forward John Erskine hit him with a dangerous elbow. Erskine was suspended three games for the hit.
At the moment, there is no confirmed date for Simmonds' return to the Flyers lineup. Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News have the latest updates on the injured star:
Wayne Simmonds (concussion) will be re-evaluated Monday, #Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said.— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 3, 2013
Holmgren says Wayne Simmonds' "symptom scale" was "actually pretty decent today" but the fact that he didn't play pushes things back a day.— Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) February 4, 2013
Simmonds was one of the Flyers' best players when he got hurt, but luckily for head coach Peter Laviolette, his team has been able to score goals without the 24-year-old winger in the lineup.
The Flyers scored five goals in a game for the second time this season when they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 on Saturday.
There's no question that Philadelphia misses the scoring, toughness, energy and penalty killing that Simmonds provides the team each game, but the Flyers have enough offensive depth to win games while he recovers from his concussion.
Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
Ryan Callahan injured his shoulder last week in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers and was expected to miss up to two weeks.
According to Andrew Gross of The Record, he's skating with his Rangers teammates again, but there has been no confirmation from the Rangers on when he will play in a real game.
Ryan Callahan participating in full #NYR morning skate. In a regular blue practice jersey. Not in a non-contact jersey.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) February 5, 2013
"(Shoulder) felt good, getting some strength back in it...getting back out there (4 practice) was first step in coming back," said Callahan on Tuesday.
The good news is that Callahan is practicing and taking contract, which means he could return to the lineup in the near future.
New York defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, but the team has four tough games coming up with matchups against the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Boston Bruins and Lightning on the schedule over the next week and a half.
The Rangers will need their captain back in the lineup as soon as possible because his scoring, penalty killing and leadership are important to the team's success. Callahan is one of just six Rangers forwards who have scored more than one goal this season.
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers' offensive depth took a hit on Monday night when the team learned that veteran forward Shawn Horcoff suffered a broken knuckle against the Vancouver Canucks (via Jason Gregor of the Edmonton Sun).
Horcoff broke his knuckle. Out longterm. #toughloss— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) February 5, 2013
The Oilers captain is an important player because of his leadership and the scoring depth he provides the team as the third line center. Players usually miss at least a few weeks with an injury as serious as a broken knuckle, but the Oilers have yet to announce how long Horcoff is expected to be out.
General manager Steve Tambellini might have to look at acquiring some more depth at forward before the trade deadline with Horcoff injured, which wouldn't be an ideal situation because his team already has issues on the blue line that must be addressed soon.
Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier recently had tests done on his left foot, according to Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times:
Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier says x-rays on left foot were negative, though he will have an MRI exam today as a precaution.— Damian Cristodero (@LightningTimes) February 3, 2013
The 33-year-old star has made a huge impact on the league's top scoring offense with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in eight games this season.
Lecavalier has battled multiple injuries over the last few years, but when he's healthy, there aren't many centers who make a stronger impact on their team's success.
He also plays an important role on the Lightning power play, which leads the league with a 36.1 percent success rate. Lecavalier has three goals and two assists on the power play through eight games.
The Lightning are fortunate that Lecavalier doesn't have a major injury because he's one of the team's most valuable players because of his incredible offensive talent and the leadership he displays on and off the ice.
Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are one of the few teams in the NHL that can replace their starting goaltender with another No. 1 netminder.
Brian Elliott will take over the starting job for Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock while Jaroslav Halak recovers from a groin injury (via Lou Korac of NHL.com):
Jaro Halak has a groin strain, put on IR. Jake Allen comes up from Peoria. #stlblues— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) February 3, 2013
The Blues are 6-2 this season but they sit in second place in the Central Division because the Chicago Blackhawks still haven't lost in regulation yet with a 7-0-2 record.
St. Louis is currently eighth in the league in GAA, and the team will be able to win games with Elliott in net. He's 3-2 this season with a 2.34 GAA and a .909 save percentage.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.
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