Is Ilya Bryzgalov banged up because the Coyotes give him too many starts?

On some level, I’m starting to wonder if a team’s backup goalie ranks as the most underrated asset (or weakness) in the NHL.

Simply put, having a decent rotation brings plenty of benefits. Sure, it’s possible that you might tweak the ego of your franchise guy (or your mediocre goalie in franchise goalie’s pads), but we’re talking about the highest pressure position in hockey. Thick skin is practically a job requirement.

Ultimately, having a good backup pushes your top guy to avoid prolonged spans of mediocrity and also allows teams to reduce the odds that a No.1 goalie will suffer from wear-and-tear injuries, particularly of the groin/leg/”lower body” variety.

Apologies to Jason LaBarbera, but the Phoenix Coyotes seem like they’re paying a little bit for their uneven distribution of labor in net. Counting LaBarbera’s likely start tonight, Ilya Bryzgalov started 26 out of Phoenix’s first 31 games in 2010-11.

After beginning the season with a reasonable three starts for Breezy/ one start for the Barber rotation, the Coyotes leaned heavily on their quirky Russian goalie since mid-November. Just look at the team’s pattern (beginning on November 12):

Eight starts for Bryzgalov (6-2-0); one start for LaBarbera (1-0); five starts for Bryzgalov (2-2-1). For non-math majors like myself, he played in 13 out of Phoenix’s 14 games in that span, including two sets of back-to-back games.

The Coyotes originally said that he was scratched from Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers because of flu symptoms, but Jim Gintonio reports that Bryzgalov is also dealing with “an upper body injury” sustained during Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who was scratched  Thursday night against the  Rangers  because of the flu, also has an upper body injury and returned to Phoenix for treatment before Saturday’s game against the Islanders.

The injury, which Bryzgalov sustained  Wednesday in New Jersey,  is not believed to be serious.

Gintonio reports that the team expects Bryzgalov to practice with the team on the Tuesday.

Now, it’s quite possible that Bryzgalov is banged up just by chance. Yet when you look at injuries sustained by workhorse goalies such as Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson so far this season, I cannot help but wonder if their teams should be a bit more scrupulous regarding their workloads. It reminds me of the wisdom of a MLB manager limiting an ace’s pitches or an NFL coach being wary of giving a running back receiving too many carries; if they care about the player’s health, they’ll be much more likely to keep them fresh in the long run.

Of course, when you play in the muddled, tiny-margin-of-error West, every LaBarbera start is a big gamble. Then again, sometimes short term pains (a so-so record when “The Barber” starts) trump long-term losses (losing Bryzgalov for extended periods of time).

Logan Couture can at least speak and eat following horrifying mouth injury

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As much as many of us suffer during a trip to the dentist, few can fathom the horrors hockey players often go through when a puck, stick or fist finds their teeth/mouths. Consult this vintage PHT post from 2010 if you want to cringe, a lot.

Much like Eddie Lack “only” dealing with a neck sprain, it’s strange to be heartened to hear that Logan Couture can speak and eat after his own painful ordeal, but that’s the positive update from the Mercury News on Tuesday.

Couture, Wilson said, did not need to have his jaw wired shut after a deflected puck caught him in the mouth on Saturday when the Sharks played the Nashville Predators.

“Hey, he can speak and eat … and his jaw isn’t wired shut!” Yeesh.

To little surprise, Couture isn’t playing on Tuesday. As far as the Sharks next three games (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), that remains to be seen.

As an aside, consider this: on the same day Jonathan Drouin‘s celebrating his birthday after helping the Lightning win, Couture is lucky if he can force down some birthday cake. Life: it isn’t always fair.

PHT discussed his trip to the dentist on Monday.

More mouth pain: When David Backes felt like his face was falling off.

Athanasiou got hurt during that Lack collision, too (and he blames Rask’s hit)

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The Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings both exchanged signs of respect after Eddie Lack left last night’s game on a stretcher, but there’s a little controversy surrounding that situation … from the Red Wings’ perspective.

You see, Andreas Athanasiou may not have collided with Lack if not for a shove/cross-check by Hurricanes forward Victor Rask.

Athanasiou is out for the Red Wings tonight, and as the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James reports, he blames the Rask hit.

Here’s a screen grab of that moment via NBCSN/the Fox Sports broadcast:

Now, check it out in full motion:

It’s unfortunate that two injuries came of that overtime-clincher, though one may at least mildly defend Rask in noting that Athanasiou was really displaying his blazing speed on that play.

The Red Wings could very well be eliminated tonight, or soon, but Athanasiou has been a bright spot during a sometimes-glum season for Detroit. Hopefully, like Lack, this is merely a minor issue from an unfortunate collision.

More promising Eddie Lack news: Hurricanes label his injury a neck strain

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Yes, it feels a little weird to “cheer” a neck strain, but such injury news feels pretty fantastic for Eddie Lack.

The Carolina Hurricanes announced that he’s dealing with exactly that on Tuesday morning, not that long after Lack’s scare after being stretchered off the ice following a collision with Detroit Red Wings Andreas Athanasiou.

Lack ended up being hospitalized, but as it turns out, that was a pretty short-term situation.

With the positive news in mind, it’s already appropriate to wonder when Lack might be back, particularly since he’s been on quite a tear during Carolina’s unlikely push for a possible playoff spot. The Hurricanes didn’t provide a window of time for his recovery, and Lack himself was vague-if-positive:

In the mean time, the Hurricanes recalled Alex Nedeljkovic, who one would assume would primarily back up Cam Ward.

So, long story short: things seem very positive for Lack, though his rehab process remains cloudy.

Bruins recall McIntyre from AHL on emergency basis

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Update: As it turns out, Anton Khudobin might be the goalie dealing with an injury, according to the Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy. So, tonight’s starter boils down to Tuukka Rask or Zane McIntyre.

(Rask it is.)

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Tuukka Rask was supposed to be back in goal for the Boston Bruins tonight.

But then, just a couple of hours before their game with the Nashville Predators, the B’s announced they’d recalled goalie Zane McIntyre from the AHL on an emergency basis.

It’s not yet clear why McIntyre was recalled. Rask missed Saturday’s game in Brooklyn with a lower-body injury, but coach Bruce Cassidy said earlier today that Rask was healthy and ready to go.

“Tuukka is healthy,” said Cassidy. “That’s what he indicated to me and that’s all I needed to hear. He’ll be our starter tonight.”

If Rask is unable to play, expect Anton Khudobin to get the nod.

Khudobin backstopped the B’s to a 2-1 victory over the Isles on Saturday.