Olympic Hockey Injury Update
The men’s ice hockey tournament opened Tuesday as the U.S. beating Switzerland 3-1. With the NHL season just recently coming to a pause, injuries have left national teams with rosters that aren’t quite the way they were intended when originally announced.
Here’s a look at which nations were affected the most, and how their chances to medal have changed.
Slovakia was a dark horse to medal from the outset. Those odds have only gotten longer given the names that have suffered injuries recently. None of these players should miss Olympic time, but they certainly won’t be 100 percent come game time.
This is what Rangers fans have been dreading all season. Gaborik has had injury issues his whole career, and things were just going too well for him up to this point.
Marian Gaborik has been the Ranger’s best player this season, putting up 35 goals and 34 assists. He recently took 21 stitches after being cut by teammate and fellow Olympian Henrik Lundquist’s skate. He has missed the better part of the last three games, and his effectiveness in the Olympics will be in serious question.
Zdeno Chara’s broken pinky hasn’t forced him to miss any time since it first occurred Nov 21. It’s been reported that he’s had it in a splint and taped to his ring finger, thus allowing him to play.
He’s been playing regular minutes in each game, and even has four points in his last seven games. While injured, this shouldn’t affect his playing time or production any.
Chara's teammate has also been bit by the pre-Olympic injury bug, but in a much more unlikely way. Five stitches in Satan’s hand have forced him to miss the Bruin’s last game before the Olympic break.
After taking a hit from Steve Downie, Satan’s stick was jammed into his hand, creating the cut.
The palm is a difficult place to take stitches and still maintain full use of the hand. While he is still on Slovakia’s roster, his effectiveness could be significantly lessened.
Marian Hossa's play this has been exactly what Blackhawk fans were hoping for when they signed him to that 12-year contract in the offseason. This recent injury, however, has many 'Hawks fans concerned.
Hossa missed Sunday’s game against Columbus after taking a hit the night before in Atlanta and leaving the game. Rumor has it that Hossa suffered a concussion.
Head coach Joel Quenneville said the star winger felt much better Monday. Hossa has practiced with the team and said he feels good.
The team’s chances of winning a medal likely hinge on his play.
Sweden has been hit as well. Supreme net presence Tomas Holmstrom is out because of a knee injury. Holmstrom’s replacement, teammate Johan Franzen, is just coming back from a knee injury of his own, but has looked good since returning.
Sweden has a deep team, and while losing Holmstrom does hurt, it doesn’t cripple their medal hopes.
A bigger question for the Swedes is how effective Holmstrom's teammate Niklas Kronwall will be.
He has been in and out with a knee injury all season, and hasn’t quite been able to shake the effects as of yet.
Kronwall is expected to be a top-four defenseman for Sweden, and if he isn’t on top of his game come the elimination rounds, the Swedes could be ripe for an upset.
Canada’s only injury concern is Ryan Getzlaf. He sustained a high ankle sprain and was questionable to make the roster. Team doctors ruled him able to compete, and he was on the ice for Canada’s opening game against Norway.
How his ankle holds up will be a huge question. With the depth of Canada’s roster, expect coach Mike Babcock to use Getzlaf sparingly until the team faces off against the U.S. on Sunday.
Team Canada won't have to rely on him until then, but having him back to 100 percent as soon as possible will give them another weapon to use against the world's best.
U.S. defensemen have been blind-sided by injury, and it showed at times against the Swiss.
The team sorely missed the physical presence of Mike Komisarek. While Brooks Orpik did his best to pick up the slack in Komisarek’s absence, the team was clearly out-played and struggled to keep up with the Swiss in the third.
Unless another defenseman steps up against Canada on Sunday, the team might have a long road ahead.
Paul Martin wasn’t able to make the trip to Vancouver due to a broken arm. The team isn’t loaded with offensive defensemen, and this could come back to haunt the team against more skilled teams like Canada.
At times, the U.S. had trouble getting out of their own zone against the Swiss. A crisp passer like Martin would have been able to alleviate the opposition’s pressure easily and have the team’s transition offense going the other way quickly.
If his replacement, Ryan Whitney, can muster any kind of offense like he did in Pittsburgh, the U.S. will have a much better chance to medal.
Belarus only had four NHL players on their roster. The fact that three of them are battling injuries only adds insult.
Mikhail Grabovski fractured his wrist and will miss the Olympics entirely. This is a team that could use a shot in the arm at any position.
The loss of Grabovski severely weakens their forwards. In a group with Sweden and Finland, goals will be at a premium. If Belarus had any shot at a medal, it went out the door with Grabovski.
Andrei Kostitsyn tried to battle through a knee injury, but wasn't able to make the cut. This is yet another shot to the already thin forwards of Belarus.
The team looked middle of the pack at best when it was at full strength. Now, without both Grabovski and Kostitsyn, their medal hopes have been all but dashed.
Ruslan Salei is the lone NHL defender on this Belarus team, and thus will bear most of the workload in the defensive end.
Salei is recovering from back surgery, and was able to get into the lineup against LA before heading up to Vancouver for the Games.
Salei’s bad back won’t get much rest in the Olympics. Defending the likes of Hank Zetterberg, Teemu Selanne, Peter Forsberg, and Saku Koivu is no small task for any team.
Considering Salei is the top defenseman on his squad, he’ll be seeing a lot of the opposition’s top forwards.