As we approach the midway point of the 2013 NHL season, injuries are starting to have an impact on the playoff race in both conferences.
If certain teams start to slide down the standings and fall out of the playoff race with their key players still unable to return to the ice, don't be surprised if the activity on the trade market starts to intensify in the near future.
Let's look at the latest updates on top NHL stars battling injuries.
Rick Nash, New York Rangers
New York Rangers winger Rick Nash has missed the team's last two games with an unknown injury. According to the team's Twitter account, he will also miss a third game on Saturday.
New York Rangers @NYRangers
The #NYR have recalled defenseman Steve Eminger from @CTWhale...Rick Nash will not join team in Montreal for game Saturday2013-2-22 19:27:38
There is some speculation that the star forward is dealing with a head injury and that a huge hit (video below) by Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic on Feb. 12 is what caused the injury.
Without Nash, the Rangers are 0-2 with just two goals scored. His physical presence in the lineup and the playmaking and scoring abilities he brings to the ice each game are so important to New York's success, and there's nobody else on the Rangers roster with his combination of size and skill.
The Rangers are alone in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they are just one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
There's no timetable for Nash's return to the lineup, but veteran forwards such as Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards have to be more productive in his absence. These two stars have scored one goal combined in the last five games.
Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers
Nash isn't the only important Rangers player dealing with an injury right now. Top-four defenseman Michael Del Zotto was hurt in the third period of Thursday night's shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators.
According to ESPN's Katie Strang, the Rangers have made a roster move in case the 22-year-old defenseman is unable to play on Saturday in Montreal.
Katie Strang @KatieStrangESPN
#NYR Rangers have also recalled D Steve Eminger, presumably as insurance (at least) for Michael Del Zotto, who left Thurs game w/ injury2013-2-22 19:35:58
Del Zotto ranks second in scoring among New York defensemen with seven points (two goals, five assists), and he is also an important part of the team's power play. He leads all Rangers defensemen with 3:17 of power-play time per game and ranks fourth on the team in total time on ice per game.
Del Zotto's injury doesn't appear to be too serious, but it's certainly a situation to monitor. He's an important part of the team's blue line because of his puck-moving and playmaking skills.
Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
When will the Ottawa Senators' injury nightmare end?
After losing top center Jason Spezza for several months and reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson for the entire season, the Senators now have to deal with an injury to starting goaltender Craig Anderson.
Ottawa Senators @Senators
Update on #Sens Craig Anderson: Craig has a sprained right ankle and is day-to-day.2013-2-22 02:52:15
The 31-year-old veteran was injured during the third period of Thursday's game against the Rangers when New York forward Chris Kreider collided with him after being bumped by Senators defenseman Marc Methot.
Anderson is arguably the best goaltender in the NHL right now and would likely win the Vezina Trophy if the season ended today. He leads the league in GAA (1.49) and save percentage (.952) and also ranks second in wins with eight.
Ottawa is 3-1 since losing Karlsson to injury, and the spectacular goaltending from Anderson is the primary reason for this success.
Fortunately for the Senators, they have two very good backup goaltenders in Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner, both of whom could start for a few NHL teams. Bishop will likely be the No. 1 netminder after replacing Anderson on Thursday and helping his team defeat the Rangers in a shootout.
The Senators should give Anderson plenty of time to recover so when he returns, the team can make a strong playoff push. Bishop and Lehner are capable of winning games consistently in his absence.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues put star rookie Vladimir Tarasenko on the injured reserve list Friday (via ESPN's Craig Custance).
Craig Custance @CraigCustance
Blues outstanding rookie Vladimir Tarasenko placed on IR. Porter up from Peoria. Blues have F depth to survive, but still tough blow.2013-2-22 19:54:11
Tarasenko was injured as a result of a hit by Colorado Avalanche forward Mark Olver during Wednesday's game. The league did not suspend or fine Olver for the hit (video above).
Tarasenko's absence from the lineup will have an impact on the Blues from an offensive standpoint, because the 21-year-old forward ranks second on the team in goals with six and fourth in points with 12. He also ranks second in goals scored and third in points among all rookies.
One player who needs to step up while Tarasenko is unable to play is Jaden Schwartz, who is also a rookie. Schwartz has just one goal and two assists in 14 games this season, and he should see a little more ice time with his teammate injured.
Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers' offense will receive a boost in the near future as top-six forward Scott Hartnell gets closer to making his return.
Here is the latest update on his status, according to Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia:
Tim Panaccio @tpanotchCSN
Hartnell been cleared to practice but ... won't play for another 7-10 days2013-2-20 23:08:01
The Flyers have lost three of their last five games and need Hartnell's toughness and offensive skill on the top line alongside captain Claude Giroux. The 30-year-old forward has missed 15 games with a broken foot.
After learning that top-six winger Matt Read is expected to miss over a month with a rib-cage injury, Hartnell's return to the lineup cannot come soon enough for the Flyers.
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche announced on Friday that captain Gabriel Landeskog will return to real game action for the team's next game.
Colorado Avalanche @Avalanche
LANDY'S BACK: Gabriel Landeskog will travel with the team to California this weekend & will be in the lineup on Saturday at LA.2013-2-22 18:35:26
He has missed 11 games since suffering a concussion on Jan. 26, and the Avalanche have gone 5-6 over that span.
Landeskog will return at a perfect time for the Avalanche, who have a tough schedule over the next two weeks, including matchups against the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and two meetings with the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks.
For a complete analysis on what Landeskog's return means to the Avalanche, click here.
Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa left Tuesday's game against the Vancouver Canucks after taking an elbow to the head from Jannik Hansen and did not return to the game. Hansen was suspended one game for the elbow.
The good news is that the 34-year-old star will return to the ice on Friday night against the San Jose Sharks (via Tim Sassone of the Daily Herald), when the Blackhawks attempt to set the record for the most games to start a regular season without a regulation loss.
Hossa is having a tremendous season with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 16 games, and it's great to see him make a speedy recovery from the hit he took earlier in the week.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.