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Injuries Having the Biggest Impact on the 1st Round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs

Carol SchramFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2014

Injuries Having the Biggest Impact on the 1st Round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs

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    Jeff Roberson

    Every year in the Stanley Cup playoffs, player health becomes a key talking point.

    Not wanting to give their opponents any sort of edge, teams take a cloak-and-dagger approach to injury announcements, often offering up very little concrete information about the status of their players.

    This slideshow looks at the key injury that appears most likely to impact seven teams' postseason chances or, in one case, has done so already. This could be a player missing from the lineup, a recent injury that has left a hole, or even a player who has returned to the lineup. 

    Results play a big part in ranking injury impact. As we get into the crucial final games of the first round, we're starting to see which teams have been able to weather the storm and which are collapsing under the pressure.

    Do you agree? Or do you think there have been other injuries that will ultimately play a bigger role in how the playoffs shake out? 

     

    All stats courtesy of NHL.com.

Stephane Robidas: Anaheim Ducks

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    Glenn James/Getty Images

    The Injury 

    Stephane Robidas fractured his right leg for the second time this season during Game 3 of the Anaheim Ducks' series with the Dallas Stars, per NHL.com. He's out for the rest of the playoffs.

    Robidas was recovering from his first injury, suffered in November, when he was dealt from the Stars to the Ducks at the trade deadline—with all parties likely unaware that they'd be first-round foes.

     

    The Impact So Far: 3/10

    Robidas' injury coincided with a slip in the Ducks' fortunes. They'd won the first two games in Anaheim, but dropped the next pair in Dallas following Robidas' injury. Mark Fistric has taken Robidas' spot in the lineup. He's a more physical player who can kill penalties, but won't be able to slot in on the power play.

     

    The Impact Looking Forward 

    Robidas seemed like a secret weapon for Anaheim in this series with his deep knowledge of the inner workings of the Stars team, but Anaheim showed in Game 5 that they should be able to get along without him.

    The injury is unfortunate, but the Ducks have an impressive group on the blue line that includes workhorse Francois Beauchemin and the talented Cam Fowler. Anaheim should be able to weather the storm.

    For Anaheim, honorable mention certainly goes to Ryan Getzlaf, who has been a warrior since taking a puck to the face in Game 1 of the series. Dallas was able to snag a victory when Getzlaf missed Game 4, but his successful return to action in Game 5 makes it look like he'll be making a solid contribution for the Ducks going forward.

Nicklas Grossman: Philadelphia Flyers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Injury

    Tim Panaccio of Comcast SportsNet reports that Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossman suffered a knee injury in the second period of the Flyers' Game 4 against the New York Rangers. He did not return to the game.

     

    The Impact So Far: 4/10

    Grossman was playing with Mark Streit on the Flyers' second defensive pairing, averaging just over 19 minutes of ice time a game when he was injured.

    Philadelphia played more than half of Game 4 with just five defensemen, but managed to eke out a 2-1 victory. Grossman's absence didn't do any immediate damage.

     

    The Impact Looking Forward

    The Flyers just got a healthy Steve Mason back in their lineup, but losing Grossman creates a meaningful hole on the blue line.

    Panaccio speculates on the Flyers' options to replace Grossman if he can't go in Game 5:

    If Grossmann is not ready, a decision on his replacement likely comes down to this: Do you want size or speed?

    If it's size, then the obvious choice is 39-year-old veteran Hal Gill. If it's speed, then it's Erik Gustafsson, who is 25 and less experienced.

    Looking at how Berube uses his defense, he'll likely go with size, which would mean Gill would make his Flyers’ playoff debut.

    Gill has lost a step with age and played just six regular-season games with the Flyers this year, but he's 6'7" and 243 pounds. Gustafsson played in 31 games and clocks in at 5'10" and 180. Neither is an ideal candidate to replace Grossman—not known for his mobility, but a solid shot-blocker and a good complement to the shiftier Streit at 6'4" and 230 pounds. 

Ryan Murray: Columbus Blue Jackets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Injury 

    NHL.com reports that rookie defenseman Ryan Murray is out of the lineup with a foot injury suffered during the morning skate before Game 4 on Wednesday.

     

    The Impact So Far: 5/10

    Looking rock solid for a rookie, Murray was averaging more than 25 minutes a game in the series before he was hurt. His injury also came right after veteran Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin was knocked out of the lineup early in Game 2. He has yet to return.

    The Jackets have turned to Dalton Prout and Nick Schultz to fill in, but the absence of Tyutin and Murray has meant lots more minutes for Columbus' top pairing of Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski. 

     

    The Impact Looking Forward

    It's expected that Tyutin will get back to work for Game 5 on Saturday, but Murray's status looks doubtful. The wild card Blue Jackets have done well to whittle their series down to a best-of-three. They'll miss Murray if he can't contribute in these crucial games.

Matt Duchene: Colorado Avalanche

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Injury

    According to the Associated Press (via the Denver Post), Matt Duchene was expected to miss about four weeks after damaging his MCL on his first shift of the Avalanche's game against the San Jose Sharks on March 29. He accidentally collided with teammate Jamie McGinn. 

     

    The Impact So Far: 6/10

    Duchene was Colorado's leading scorer in the regular season, with 70 points in 65 games, and was playing the best hockey of his life. The Avs looked like they'd be able to manage without him when they exploded offensively in the first two games of their playoff series, but the Minnesota Wild made adjustments that have contained the loaded first line.

    Colorado scored only one goal in two games in Minnesota and managed just 12 shots on goal in Game 4.

     

    The Impact Looking Forward

    The Avs could use another scorer to counter the Wild's stifling defensive approach to their top line. Duchene is skating but the Denver Post reported on Friday that he won't play in Game 5 and that Patrick Roy will be "very surprised" if he plays in the series.

    For now, Colorado will need to count on the boost from their home fans to try to get back on the winning track. If they lose Game 5 on Saturday, they'll likely do everything they can to get Duchene into the lineup when they face elimination in Minnesota later in the week.

Jimmy Howard: Detroit Red Wings

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Injury

    Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard was a last-minute scratch from Game 4 due to the flu, per the Detroit News' Ted Kulfan. He didn't practice Friday and isn't expected to play.

    It's being reported that hockey analyst Aaron Ward said during a TSN Radio appearance on Friday that he's "not convinced" that Howard has the flu, speculating that the goaltender might have been concussed after a Carl Soderberg knee to the head during a goalmouth scrum in Game 3.

     

    The Impact So Far: 7/10

    Going into Game 4, it looked like the most important injuries to impact the Red Wings would be the loss of Daniel Alfredsson, who missed Games 3 and 4 with back pain, or the unexpected return of Henrik Zetterberg, who rejoined the team on Thursday after back surgery of his own back in February. But the timing of Howard's injury looms largest of all. He stole Game 1 of the series for the Red Wings, who need every advantage they can get against the potent Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins.

    Jonas Gustavsson played well on Thursday, but not quite well enough for the win. The Wings built a 2-0 lead in Game 4 before Boston mounted their comeback, eventually winning the game on a lucky goal in overtime.

     

    The Impact Looking Forward

    If "The Monster" can't backstop Detroit to a win in Boston on Saturday, Howard will get all the time he needs to get healthy. The Bruins have won three straight games and have pushed the Red Wings to the brink of elimination.

    Injuries have been the story in Detroit all season long. Howard alone has missed action during the year with hand, knee and hip flexor injuries, per The Hockey News. He delivered subpar regular-season numbers with a 2.66 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

    As hoped, Howard tightened up with a 2.02 goals-against and .931 save percentage through the first three games of the playoffs before being sidelined. The Wings will have to rely on Gustavsson and take it one game at a time to have any hope at all of advancing.

David Backes: St. Louis Blues

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    Mark Buckner/Getty Images

    The Injury

    David Backes missed Games 3 and 4 of the St. Louis Blues' series against the Chicago Blackhawks after taking a nasty hit from Brent Seabrook late in Game 2, per NHL.com.

     

    The Impact So Far: 8/10

    The Blackhawks were leading 3-2 in Game 2 when Backes was injured at 15:09 of the third period and left the game. Seabrook was assessed a major penalty, which allowed the Blues to tie the game with a late goal, then score the winner in overtime.

    Since then, it's been a different story. The Blues have sagged while the 'Hawks have turned up the intensity, winning both games in Chicago. Backes returned for Game 5 in St. Louis but was a minus-two as his team fell 3-2 in overtime. 

     

    The Impact Looking Forward

    After losing three straight games, the Blues face elimination when Seabrook returns to the series on Sunday in Chicago. St. Louis' series is now mirroring last season's first-round loss to the Los Angeles Kings, where the Blues won the first two games before ultimately falling in six games. 

    Backes did contribute in Game 5, delivering eight hits and firing the Blues' last shot of the game on Corey Crawford just seconds before Jonathan Toews scored the overtime game-winner. The captain will need to dig even deeper if the Blues hope to avoid elimination.

Ben Bishop: Tampa Bay Lightning

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Injury

    According to Lightning beat reporter Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune, Big Ben dislocated his elbow on April 8 against the Toronto Maple Leafs—the injury that kept him out of the playoffs.

    Lonnie Herman of NHL.com reports Bishop also revealed that he played with a cast on his wrist for several months before the elbow injury. He'll be undergoing undergo surgery for that torn ligament during the summer.

     

    The Impact So Far: 9/10

    Without their Vezina-nominated netminder, the Lightning were swept in their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens and became the first team eliminated from the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Even if he hadn't been sidelined by the elbow injury, the wrist problem alone might have been enough to impact his effectiveness.

    The Hockey News' online game log shows that Bishop missed four games starting Jan. 7 with an upper body/wrist problem. His numbers were fine when he first came back, posting a 2.39 goals-against and .923 save percentage for January, but by April those stats had dropped to 2.99 and .889 before he was sidelined.

     

    The Impact Looking Forward 

    Bishop's wrist will be in a cast for six weeks, then he'll need a two-month recovery period. With a long summer ahead, he should be fully recuperated for training camp in September.

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