Now we will take a quick look around the NHL at some of the significant injury situations and where they stand as the league comes out of the All-Star break this week.
Byfuglien getting closer, but not expected to play this week
Dustin Byfuglien has not been in the Winnipeg Jets lineup since the end of December, and while he is expected to return to the ice this week for practice he is not expected to play in any of the team’s three games and did not accompany the team on its upcoming two-game road trip.
The Jets are in Philadelphia and Boston on Monday and Tuesday before returning home to play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
Jets coach Paul Maurice was asked on Sunday if there is any possibility that Byfuglien could return for that Thursday game and seemed to downplay the chances of it.
“I’m gonna say no because I haven’t seen him skate yet,” said Maurice, via Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun. “If he comes out and he’s flying around we’d consider it. I don’t expect him to be.”
Byfuglien is the Jets’ top defender and has 29 points (five goals, 24 assists) in 32 games this season while playing more than 24 minutes per night.
In his absence the Jets have still managed to go 7-3-0 over the past 10 games to remain tied with the Nashville Predators at the top of the Central Division. That number is even more impressive when you consider they have also been without forward Nikolaj Ehlers for eight of those games.
After the home game against Columbus on Thursday the next chance for him to get back in the lineup would be two nights later against the Anaheim Ducks.
Taylor Hall not progressing as quickly as Devils had hoped
The reigning league MVP has not played since Dec. 23 and is not progressing as quickly as the Devils had hoped in his recovery from a lower-body injury.
He did skate for the first time before practice on Sunday, but is not yet ready to return to the lineup and will not accompany the team on its trip to Pittsburgh for Monday’s game against the Penguins.
Even though Hall has only appeared in 33 games this season and has not played in more than a month, he is still the team’s second-leading scorer with 37 points, just one behind Kyle Palmieri.
Palmieri has played in 15 more games.
For the season Hall has 37 points in 33 games and is still the driving force behind everything the Devils do when he is in the lineup. He has arguably been just as good as he was a year ago when he nearly single-handedly carried the team to a surprising playoff spot. Injuries, however, have limited him and the Devils.
The Devils won the first three games of Hall’s absence but have fallen apart in the weeks since going just 3-7-0 in their past 10 games, with only two of those wins coming in regulation.
Justin Schultz is getting closer
While there is no official timetable for his return at this point, and even though he is not returned to full practice with the team, Pittsburgh Penguins defender Justin Schultz has been skating on his own and seems to be inching closer toward a return.
After practice on Sunday Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said that Schultz is “approaching” being able to join the team for practice and that he is more “week-to-week” than day-to-day.
Schultz has played in just four games this season after fracturing his leg back on October. He was originally expected to miss at least four months. That timeframe, assuming it is unchanged, would set him up for a return sometime around mid-February. Or in other words, about two weeks from today.
His return, whenever it happens, would be a significant one for the Penguins because he would help solidify their top-four on defense without having to make another trade (though, they still might). While their top-pairing is set with Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin, and they seem willing to ride with a third-pairing of Marcus Pettersson and Jack Johnson, their second pairing has been a bit unsettled as they’ve rotated Jamie Oleksiak and Juuso Riikola alongside Olli Maatta. None of those combinations have been bad, but Schultz brings an element offensively that neither Oleksiak or Riikola (or Maata, for that matter) can.
He would also help what is an already dangerous power play unit.
Erik Karlsson gets another week off to prepare
After being shut down for the three games leading up to the NHL All-Star break, San Jose Sharks defender Erik Karlsson was at least healthy enough to play for the hometown fans in Sunday’s game.
Now he has another week to recover as the Sharks do not return to action until Friday night when they host the Arizona Coyotes. It is expected that Karlsson should be ready for action at that point.
Prior to the injury Karlsson had returned to his usual Norris Trophy form where he can dominate the pace of the game and score at a level that is unmatched by almost any other defender. He has recorded 28 points in his past 20 games, while also posting some of the best shot attempt and scoring chance numbers of any player in the league. He has been great, and everything the Sharks could have hoped for him to be when they added him to an already strong defense in an offseason trade with the Ottawa Senators. The Sharks struggled in the three games he missed, winning just one of them and giving up at least six goals in all three of them.
They were 8-2-0 in the 10 games prior to that stretch.