Veteran Columbus forward R.J. Umberger missed a handful of games this year as a healthy scratch — but it turns out he was anything but healthy.
In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Umberger revealed he’d been playing with a broken finger, separated shoulder and herniated disc at times season — including all three during the Blue Jackets’ opening-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
A: Early March. It was not a break, they thought. But then it started hurting again so they x-rayed it again and there’s a huge hairline fracture in it.
Q: What about your back?
A: That’s bothered me a lot of the year. After the Olympic break it really started bothering me. MRI said herniated disc. The shoulder is what knocked me out (of an April 6 game) against the Islanders. (He didn’t play again until Game 2 vs. Pittsburgh).
Umberger — who finished fourth on the team in goals this year, with 18 — started sitting as a “healthy” scratch in late March before getting sidelined with an “upper-body injury” (the shoulder) on Apr. 7, one that saw him miss the remainder of the regular season.
The 32-year-old returned for the postseason and appeared in four of six games against Pittsburgh, averaging 12:47 per game while assisting on one of the most famous goals in Columbus franchise history — Nick Foligno’s OT winner in Game 4 to seven the series at two:
It’ll be interesting to see what Umberger’s future in Columbus holds. While he’s one of the club’s longest-tenured players and a gritty veteran leader, he also carries a fairly sizable cap hit ($4.6 million) until 2017 and has fallen down the pecking order with the emergence of Columbus’ young, talented forwards.
Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more
The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.
Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.
While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.
(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)
Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.
As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.
Dave Tippett does not think Mike Smith will be ready for home game vs. Colorado on Oct. 29, but he is not far from getting back on the ice.
Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.
Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.
You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:
Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.
So, who is Shane Harper?
For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.
His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.
You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone: