The Montreal Canadiens are playing well tonight (currently up 4-0 against the Detroit Red Wings), but the bottom line is that the big picture has been ugly. Losing team captain Brian Gionta added another injury to the insults, but he spoke to the media for the first time since what seemed to be season-ending bicep surgery today.
The most interesting thing he said was that the surgery might not end his 2011-12 campaign after all, although that could just be blind optimism:
Would it really be worth it for him to come back if Montreal remains trapped in the Eastern Conference cellar? Maybe not, but you get the feeling that Gionta is having trouble watching his team struggle from the sidelines.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been hard by a lot of things – reality, the brutal Central Division and Western Conference – but injuries rank pretty high on that list.
Losing Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski for extended amounts of time obviously garners the headlines, but they’ve been without a 20-minute-per-game for most of 2011-12 and he won’t be back again. The Blue Jackets announced that Radek Martinek will sit out the rest of this season because of his concussion issues.
Considering the fact that Martinek only appeared in seven games, it might be a stretch to say that Brett Lebda has been signed to “replace” him in the lineup, but one can look at Lebda’s one-year deal that way. To some long-suffering Blue Jackets fans, the signing of Lebda adds salt to their wounds because he’s been a scapegoat of a blueliner in his other shaky NHL stops.
Either way, these stories are all too typical for the woeful Blue Jackets, who cannot be blamed if they decide to “Fail for Nail/Mikhail” for the rest of this season.
Flyers fans’ worst fear has been confirmed: the team just announced that Chris Pronger will sit out the rest of the season and playoffs because of severe post-concussion syndrome. Here’s the official statement:
“After consultation with respected concussion specialists Dr. Joseph Maroon and Dr. Micky Collins, it is the opinion of both doctors that Chris is suffering from severe post-concussion syndrome. It is the recommendation of Doctors Maroon and Collins that Chris not return to play for the Philadelphia Flyers for the remainder of the 2011-12 season or playoffs. Chris will continue to receive treatment and therapy with the hope that he can get better.”
Obviously, this is an enormous blow to the Flyers. A healthy Pronger is a huge difference-maker. That much was evident in the 2010 playoffs when the team came two wins short of a Stanley Cup despite interchanging between Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton in net. You can make a reasonable argument that Pronger deserved a Conn Smythe nod on three different occasions, so there’s no doubt he’ll be sorely missed.
The bigger worries go beyond this season, though. Pronger has a 35+ contract, so Philly will be on the hook for his $4.92 million cap hit through 2016-17 even if he retires. In a way, it seems like his health collapsed the second that regrettable deal became valid in 2010-11.
Hopefully Pronger will come back healthy – eventually – but considering his rugged style and severe mileage, his big-picture outlook is grim.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before. The Penguins will be without a center for at least a few more games. No, not that world-class center—the other one. Sidney Crosby’s battle to get back in the lineup has stolen all the headlines, but now Evgeni Malkin is scheduled to miss the Penguins next two-game road trip. The advantage to having an embarrassment of riches at center is that the Penguins have a replacement when they lose one of those Hart Trophy winning centers. The bad thing is they don’t have an answer when they lose both of them at the same time. (see: last season).
Here’s the news from Shelly Anderson at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“The Penguins have arrived in Winnipeg, but the team reports that center Evgeni Malkin and three other injured players did not make the two-game trip, which includes a game against the Jets on Monday and a game at Minnesota on Tuesday.”
The official word is that Malkin has soreness in the right knee that he had surgery on last season. You’ll remember that was a season-ending surgery that forced the former 2nd overall pick to miss 39 games. This isn’t the kind of news fans wanted while they wait for that other center to get back on the ice.
Even while recovering from last year’s injury, Malkin has still looked good in the few games he’s played in the early season. He’s missed three of the last four games, yet he’s still managed a goal and three assists for the Penguins this season. Not bad for a guy who has only played in three games this season.
The Penguins showed at the end of last season that they are capable of getting by without Malkin and Sidney Crosby in the lineup. Strong defensive play, great goaltending, and spreading out the scoring responsibility helped the Penguins finish with the 4th seed last season. They’re already using the lessons learned from last season to tread water until the superstar duo gets back on the ice.
The next opportunity Malkin will have to return will be at home on Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens. As widely reported, Crosby was cleared for contact last week and is also battling to get back into the lineup as soon as possible. Either way, the Penguins could use one of those guys sooner rather than later.
The Colorado Avalanche have quietly put together an outstanding follow up campaign after their breakthrough 2009-10 season. While their Pacific Division lead over the Vancouver Canucks is unstable at best, their six-game winning streak, league-best 121 goals scored and impressive array of speedy young talent indicates that they’re going to be a factor in the Western Conference for quite some time.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that they will have to keep their locomotive offense going without Kyle Quincey, a defenseman who has prospered since he left the Detroit Red Wings organization to play with Colorado and Los Angeles.
Colorado reports that the defenseman will undergo season-ending surgery on his shoulder in the “near future.” While Quincey has regressed after underrated seasons (only one assist and a -5 rating in 21 games this season), losing the 25-year-old defenseman still a tough bit of news for the team.
“This is the best course of action for Kyle and his future,” said Avalanche team physician Dr. Andrew Parker. “After physical and diagnostic tests, the decision has been made to repair his shoulder at this time.”