Injuries Having the Biggest Impact on 2014 Winter Olympic Hockey
In just one week, the cauldron will be lit in Sochi, Russia to symbolize the opening of the XXII Olympic Winter Games. A week after that, the men's hockey tournament will begin.
At the Olympics, the best in the world play for national pride. Of course, not all of the world's best players will be able to participate when the puck is dropped in Sochi. Injuries are always an issue, and it's virtually guaranteed that some stars will be relegated to the sidelines due to health concerns.
Here's a look at 10 Olympians who are presently out of action in the NHL and how their chances look to participate in Sochi.
Aleksander Barkov: Finland
Current Status: On injured reserve since Jan. 22 with a knee injury.
Projected Timeline: Harvey Fialkov of the Florida Sun Sentinel tweeted on Jan. 29 that Barkov is skating and will travel with the team this weekend. He should be back in the lineup soon.
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 90 percent. It sounds like the rookie's recovery is on track from an issue that was thought to be relatively minor. The 18-year-old should have a great chance to impress on the global stage in Sochi.
Pavel Datsyuk: Russia
Current Status: On injured reserve since Jan. 7 with a lower-body injury. Hasn't played since Jan. 1.
Projected Timeline: Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reported on Jan. 27 that Datsyuk was "considered close, but that's been his status for several days now." He has been practising with the team.
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 99 percent. The Russians named Datsyuk captain of Team Russia on Jan. 15, while he was out of the Red Wings' lineup (per NHL.com). With the pressure on Russian players to deliver a gold-medal performance in their home country, it's unlikely the captaincy would have been awarded if there was any real doubt that Datsyuk would be ready to play.
Johan Franzen: Sweden
Current Status: On injured reserve since Jan. 27 with a concussion. Franzen was originally injured on Dec. 15, but his symptoms recurred in his first game back on Jan. 26.
Projected Timeline: Unknown. Franzen's setback is a blow—both to the Red Wings and Team Sweden. Per Red Wings' injury-watcher Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, "Franzen is out indefinitely."
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 25 percent. Again, from Helene St. James: "He’s got a history of head injuries, making it unlikely he returns before the Olympic break, and thus unlikely he’ll play for Sweden at the Sochi Games." Swedish officials may be looking for an injury replacement for Franzen.
Marian Gaborik: Slovakia
Current Status: On injured reserve since Dec. 22 with a broken collarbone.
Projected Timeline: Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports that time is running out for Gaborik. He's skating, but not shooting. From Mitchell:
Gaborik said joining the Blue Jackets in California next week is 'up for discussion' but said playing any NHL games before the break begins on Feb. 8 is 'impossible, I think.' Gaborik remains in contact with Slovakian officials every few days, and it is possible his national team would keep him on its roster, even if he was not ready for its opener.
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 60 percent. Per Mitchell, Gaborik is scheduled for another x-ray next week, the result of which will likely determine his fate. Slovakia needs the offensive punch enough that they won't rush to replace Gaborik on their roster. Even Gaborik sounds uncertain: "I still try to think positive but time is running out."
Jimmy Howard: USA
Current Status: Probable for Detroit's game against Washington on Jan. 30. Hasn't played since Jan. 20 due to a knee injury.
Projected Timeline: Ready to go. Howard backed up Jonas Gustavsson in Detroit's 5-0 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 85 percent—that he'll be on the roster for Team USA, that is. Howard has suffered through injury after injury this season, so something else could still happen before the Games. Even if healthy, it's unlikely that Howard will see playing time as the probable third-stringer behind Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick.
Mikko Koivu: Finland
Current Status: On injured reserve since Jan. 5 after ankle surgery. Projected to miss one month.
Projected Timeline: On Jan. 22, the Pioneer Press reported that Koivu is progressing well and believes he's ahead of schedule. He doesn't want to set a return date but says he'll play in Sochi whether or not he squeezes in some NHL action before the Olympic break:
'It always matters (to play ahead of time), but if not so be it,' Koivu said. 'I think in my situation being off right now, not playing any games, it's going to be good for me to play some games and practice with the team first off. (But) to play in high-level hockey (in the Olympics) is going to be good for me after the tournament even if I don't play any games here. I think it's good for all of us.'
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 90 percent. Koivu sounds confident, and he has dealt with his share of injuries in the past. He has a chance to captain Team Finland; he'll find a way to be there.
Henrik Sedin: Sweden
Current Status: Day-to-day with bruised ribs. Hasn't played since Jan. 18.
Projected Timeline: Uncertain. Towards the end of his 679 consecutive-game ironman streak, Henrik was known to be playing with a finger injury, which was limiting his ability to take faceoffs, according to The Score. He then pressed through a stick to the ribs from Martin Hanzal of the Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 16, but one more tap from T.J. Brodie in the Canucks' next game against Calgary finally sidelined Vancouver's captain.
The Canucks are very tight-lipped about injuries. Henrik has been described by coach Mike Sullivan as "making progress," per Elliott Pap. Henrik hasn't been seen with the team since he was injured—though I suppose he could be masquerading as twin brother Daniel.
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 60 percent. With no concrete information to go on, let's assume that the Canucks aren't downplaying Henrik's injury too much. After leading Team Sweden to gold at the World Championship last spring, Henrik will want to join his brother in Sochi if at all possible.
Steven Stamkos: Canada
Current Status: On injured reserve after right tibia surgery. Hasn't played since Nov. 11.
Projected Timeline: To return Feb. 8? Stamkos was frank with Bruce Arthur of the National Post on Jan. 28 about the "hard deadline" he's facing to try to play a game with the Tampa Bay Lightning before leaving for the Olympics. He skipped a day of practise on Monday because he didn't feel quite right, but was back on the ice in full gear on Tuesday.
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 50/50. Here's Arthur's assessment of Stamkos' practise performance on Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre:
On the ice, Stamkos was wearing the right jersey, but he lacked explosiveness; it was like he was walking through his skating, even when he tried to run. He looked like he would be fine, but he’s not fine now. He’s trying.
According to Stamkos, "If I’m not ready, I’m not going to be going." The decision will come down to the final days.
Shea Weber: Canada
Current Status: Questionable for Nashville's Jan. 31 game against New Jersey.
Projected Timeline: Unknown. Weber left Nashville's Jan. 28 game against Winnipeg early in the third period after apparently straining himself while taking a shot. TSN's Sara Orlesky reports the Team Canada defenseman will be reevaluated back in Nashville.
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 80 percent. Though Weber's diagnosis hasn't been made public, Orlesky says management doesn't think the injury's too serious. With rest and treatment, Weber should stay on schedule for Sochi.
Henrik Zetterberg: Sweden
Current Status: Day-to-day. Questionable for Detroit's game against Washington on Jan. 30 with a sore back. Last played Jan. 24 against Montreal.
Projected Timeline: On Jan. 27, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press speculated that Zetterberg could return on Friday, but in her followup on Jan. 29, she conceded that "nobody is sure of return dates." Still, it doesn't sound too serious.
Chance He'll Play in Sochi: 90 percent. Back problems can be tricky, but it sounds like Zetterberg's issue is more of a short-term flare-up. Expect him back in the Wings lineup before the Olympic break.