NHL 2013 Season: 6 Teams Struggling Through the Most Injuries
Entering the NHL's shortened and condensed 2013 season, every coach in every city knew that injuries would play a major role in the course of the year.
So far, they've been exactly right.
From Erik Karlsson to Evgeni Malkin to Kari Lehtonen, an All-Star team of top-flight players has steadily formed on the injured reserve list.
Indeed, concussions, surgeries, lacerations and even the flu are taking their toll on the NHL more than ever before. Captains are sitting in the press box; goaltenders are spending game nights in the locker room; entire lines are being torn apart as, one by one, players fall.
And teams are feeling the effects.
The Ottawa Senators have undoubtedly been hit the hardest—eight opening-day starters have all missed at least the past week with ailments—but a surfeit of clubs are close behind them.
We break down a half-dozen teams struggling the most injury problems on the coming slides.
Note: All injury data courtesy of TSN.com.
To lose a few productive forwards to injury is one thing.
To lose a year-in, year-out starting goaltender to injury is another.
The Calgary Flames are among just four teams pushing towards March without their No. 1 netminder.
The Flames' longtime backstop Miikka Kiprusoff has missed 10 consecutive games with a knee injury, leaving the team with an odd rotation of Joey MacDonald, Leland Irving and Daniel Taylor to fill the void. The trio has posted a mere .890 save percentage over the span.
Meanwhile, two promising youngsters and former first-round picks—Sven Baertschi (13th in 2011) and Mikael Backlund (24th in 2007)—have both missed more than half the season so far and have combined for just four points in 13 appearances so far. Baertschi returned over the weekend, but Backlund remains on IR.
Already missing physical top-six forward Tuomo Ruutu for the entire season, a recent onslaught of injuries has left the Hurricanes reeling in the standings.
2011 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner, who missed extended time last season due to a concussion, has missed four games and counting with another small concussion. Meanwhile, special teams specialist Tim Brent, who underwent hernia surgery during the lockout, is out with a lower-body concern.
But the defense has arguably been hit harder than any other. Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain are all suffering through ailments, forcing Carolina's already suspect defense to use longtime AHL-ers Bobby Sanguinetti and Michal Jordan and call up 2011 first-rounder Ryan Murphy on emergency basis from the OHL.
The once 8-4-1 Hurricanes have now lost three of their last four games to fall into a tie for the Southeast Division lead.
Detroit Red Wings
Thought the retirements of Brian Rafalski and Nick Lidstrom would pose a problem for the Red Wings?
You were probably right. But those losses might be overshadowed by the epidemic passing through Hockeytown right now.
Four veteran mid-line forwards—including franchise cornerstone Johan Franzen, a 29-goal scorer from a year ago, in addition to Darren Helm, Todd Bertuzzi and offseason signing Mikael Samuelsson—have hit the IR list. They've missed a combined 50 games already.
Meanwhile, notable free-agent signing Carlo Colaiacovo and up-and-coming blueliner Brendan Smith are both sitting in the press box, too. The two of them were expected to help usher in a new era for the Wings defense, but instead they've only added to the problems.
With offensive defenseman Kyle Quincey falling into the day-to-day list over the weekend too, the Red Wings, who have won just nine of 19 contests to date, might want to begin pressing the panic button.
As Erik Karlsson slid to the ice in a 180-pound heap of pain, none of his teammates knew exactly what had happened or exactly how badly he was hurt.
But they knew it wasn't good.
And they knew their injury troubles were able to get a lot larger.
Karlsson's Achilles laceration was eventually evaluated to be season-ending, adding him to an incredibly lengthy list of Senators already finding homes on the injured reserve ticker.
Unheralded forward Jared Cowen had hip surgery during the lockout and is anticipated to miss the entire season.
Star center Jason Spezza underwent back surgery in January and is unlikely to return until April.
Injury-prone forward Guillaume Latendresse has missed all of February with a non-traumatic head injury.
Veteran scorer Milan Michalek has been out for almost two weeks with a sprained knee.
Now, even goaltender Craig Anderson—who leads the league with a .952 save percentage—is doubtful for Monday's showdown with Montreal. He missed Ottawa's 3-2 win over Toronto on Saturday as well.
Amazingly, despite all of the above, the Senators are 11-6-2 with four consecutive wins under their belt. It's a remarkable feat to be sure, but can they really keep it up?
The Philadelphia Flyers finished the 2011-12 season and entered this one with several injury worries ongoing, so it's really little surprise they're among the IR leaders five weeks in.
Chris Pronger's career is essentially over, and Matt Walker and Marc-Andre Bourdon began the season on (and have yet to leave) injured reserve.
Moreover, veteran D-man Andrej Meszaros recovered from an Achilles ailment just in time for opening day but, four games in, went down with a sprained shoulder and hasn't returned. Fan-favorite Scott Hartnell broke his foot in the season's opening week and remains a few days away from returning.
Since then, backup goaltender Michael Leighton and scrappy fourth-line forward Tom Sestito have also missed some time, but the loss of second-year star Matt Read last Thursday will be especially costly. The 26-year-old winger, who scored seven goals and 13 points in his first 18 appearances, suffered torn rib muscles and is projected to be out six weeks.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Coming off of a 25-goal, 67-point performance in 2011-12, Joffrey Lupul was expected to be a key cornerstone in the Leafs' attempt to end their postseason drought in 2013.
On the second day of the regular season, he was signed to a five-year contract extension. On the sixth day of the regular season, he suffered a forearm injury and was placed on IR with a six-week timetable for returning.
Unsurprisingly, he hasn't played a minute of hockey since.
Lupul isn't the only significant Leafs player benched with an injury, however.
Goaltender James Reimer and forward Matt Frattin were both placed on IR back on Feb. 12 as well, despite posting two impressive starts to the year. Reimer went 6-3-0 with a .929 save percentage in his first nine starts, while Frattin exploded for seven goals and 10 points in his first 10 games.
Both have missed six consecutive games since then.