For 158 NHL players this December, Christmastime might not be as merry as usual.
That's how many currently sit inactive on the injury report, according to CBS Sports' NHL Injuries report. From the current scoring leader to the last two Rookies of the Year to arguably the face of the sport of hockey, it seems like nearly half of all impact players across the National Hockey League are suffering through some winter health issues.
This plethora of injuries isn't just hurting the players injured, however. They're also putting their respective teams in a hole and dampening the cheerful spirits of many festive hockey fans.
Seven of the 11 players on this list are on one of the top 11 teams in the NHL to date, decimating a significant amount of star power at the top of the league. Meanwhile, several others are further hampering the success of some bottom-dwellers fighting to get back into the playoff picture.
No matter who the team is, though, it's undeniable that these one-less-than-a-dozen stars are all dearly missed by their squads as the holidays approach. Here's the rundown on what's keeping each one out of the lineup.
In addition to their star on the opposite end of the ice (we'll get into that later), the Philadelphia Flyers are also pained to see Chris Pronger sitting on their bench. 36-year-old Pronger, with 17 years of NHL experience, has been sidelined for nearly four weeks now and remains headed in the wrong direction.
After scoring one goal and 12 points in his first 13 games—quite a scoring pace for a defenseman—Pronger was knocked out of Philly's Nov. 19 game against Winnipeg.
He hasn't played since.
To add to the misery, Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren announced just last Friday that Pronger is now facing another setback, as well: a concussion. This latest injury should keep the aging blueliner off the ice for at least another month and might even jeopardize his career.
For a Philadelphia team competing for a conference title, Pronger's health difficulties are a tough pill to swallow.
David Booth has had a roller coaster year.
The 27-year-old winger arrived in Vancouver following a trade just six games into his season, only the second team of his six-year career (the first was Florida). Booth picked up the pace with the change of scenery, notching five strikes and 12 points in 19 games as a Canuck.
But now that streak has ended in a major way. Booth suffered a disheartening MCL sprain on Dec. 6 versus Colorado, eliminating him from the lineup for an estimated four to six weeks.
After playing a full 82 game season in '10-'11, this challenge comes at a particularly bad time for both Booth and his new team.
It seemed as if nothing could go wrong for Jeff Skinner in his rookie year. The energetic, adorable 18-year-old rode a wave of praise to a 31-goal, 32-assist performance last year, highlighted with the Calder Trophy.
And not only did he never miss a beat, he never missed a game, either.
2011-2012 has changed that. Although the sensational teenager has only missed two games so far, a newly announced concussion should lengthen that time period.
At first, team doctors believed Skinner had simply gotten the flu during the team's tiring Canadian road trip. Unfortunately, they now know otherwise.
Just one month ago, the Dallas Stars, led by dark horse netminder Kari Lehtonen, appeared nearly unstoppable. They were sitting on the top of the Western Conference hill, having caught most of the league sleeping on their newfound star power, and Lehtonen was on pace for an incredible, record-shattering year.
It's too bad good things have to come to an end.
He's still holding up a remarkable 13-4-0 record and .926 save percentage, but he's not adding to it. Lehtonen suffered a painful-to-watch "groin injury" on Nov. 26 in Phoenix, leaving the game with a mere three saves on three shots.
The underrated Finnish goalie hasn't returned since. ESPN expects not to see him back in goal until well after Christmas.
For a Dallas team so far living up to their unbelievably high expectations, this downturn in fortune will surely test their endurance as the halfway mark approaches.
It's hard to believe, but Kris Letang is still only 24 years old. Apparently, there's a reason why that age is hard to believe; he might just have pushed his body a bit too far.
Coming off a breakout '10-'11 campaign on the injury-ravaged Penguins, Letang has become the latest victim of Injury Central, U.S.A. with...you guessed it, a concussion.
Like the aforementioned Kari Lehtonen, Letang has also been out of action since being knocked out of play on the 26th of November. A series of mistakes and setbacks in practice has become the trend for Quebec native since then, keeping fantasy owners irritated and Pittsburgh in some back-end trouble.
With a tough schedule upcoming for the Pens, they'll want Letang, who had 19 points and a plus-five rating in 22 appearances before the injury, to push for as early of a return as possible—yet there's still no solid guarantee of when that day will come.
Brotherly love isn't always so loving...or at least that's what Marc Staal will tell you.
An explosive, dangerous, head-crunching hit delivered by brother Eric Staal last spring gave the youngest of the three Staal brothers a concussion. He returned just a couple weeks later, though, and the issue appeared to be behind him.
Not so. Following the finish of Marc's 29-point '10-'11 campaign, signs of post-concussion syndrome began to come to the surface in the summer.
The entire timetable for Marc's recovery has been steadily pushed backwards since then, leaving the Rangers without arguably their best defenseman and the Staal family more than a little worried.
Tuesday's announcement of Claude Giroux's concussion has sent shock waves through the sport of hockey.
Giroux has scored 16 goals and 23 helpers in 28 games, landing him atop the league leaderboard and as one of the early front-runners for league MVP. Coming off of a mere 25 goals and 76 points last year—solid production, but nothing that outstanding—Giroux appears to be in the midst of a breakout season at age 23.
Unless his run is to be halted significantly by his current head injury, however. Giroux was kneed in the head last Sunday against Tampa Bay, a game where he ended up with two assists. Two days later, the Flyers labeled him "out indefinitely."
With Chris Pronger out alongside him as well, Philadelphia will be praying that Giroux can return quickly and safely to give their offense a spark.
The 2011-2012 season has not been the best for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After an exciting run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, the Bolts stand at 13th in the East with a 12-16-2 record and minus-32 team plus/minus rating. They've only fallen further off the mark lately, with only three wins in their last 10 games.
An injury to star first-liner Martin St. Louis won't help their cause, either.
St. Louis' holidays should be slightly more painful than usual. He's been sidelined with an unusual injury: "facial and nasal fractures." Add that to the fact that the 36-year-old speedster had four goals in six games before he went down, and this becomes an injury he surely wishes he didn't have.
Mike Richards is approaching readiness after an upper-body injury nearly two weeks ago, but his absence has, nonetheless, been significant.
The 26-year-old center arrived in Los Angeles this summer following four consecutive 60-plus point performances in Philadelphia, and caught on immediately with 11 strikes and nine helpers in the season's first two months. On Dec. 1 against Florida, however, he left the bench midway through and hasn't seen any ice time since.
For the Kings, who are still seeking to end an alarming five-game losing skid that has plummeted them below .500, Richards can't return to their top six soon enough.
The story of Sidney Crosby's post-concussion syndrome difficulties has been perhaps the biggest of all of 2011, at least in the hockey world.
While Crosby's 10-month leave from hockey as he battled through pain, seizures and intense rehab captivated both media and fans alike, his return to the rink this autumn was just as magical.
Crosby landed two goals and two assists in his Nov. 26 season debut (a 5-0 win for the Penguins), and then recorded eight more helpers over his next seven appearances.
And then Crosby's inspiring run ended. More health issues sprang up, and after a Dec. 5 meeting with Boston, Crosby was again on the injury report. The team confirms that his symptoms have returned, leaving him "no timetable for return."
With losses in three of their last four, Pittsburgh continues to ail without Crosby highlighting their roster, leaving many fans simply praying that Crosby's latest bout won't be quite as severe as it was last time.
Before Jeff Skinner, there was Tyler Myers. The 2010 Calder Trophy recipient had 48 points and a plus-13 rating during that memorable '09-'10 campaign, followed it up with 37 points and five game-winners in '10-'11, and was poised for another solid season this time around.
Then, he watched his wrist break in mid-November, eliminating him from the Buffalo lineup for a projected two months. Myers had only six points in 19 games at that point, in addition to an uncharacteristic minus-four rating—this latest setback translated into another loss of opportunity to break out of the slump.
A typically slow starter, the Sabres are again right on top of the playoff bubble with 15 victories in 30 games. Their 10th-ranked defense has been solid, though, and the presence of Myers would only make it better.
Unfortunately, it looks as if he might not get back on the ice until the start of 2012, at the earliest.