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Crosby, Chara, Subban headline brutal NHL injuries list

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If it wasn’t already clear that the grind of a grueling 82-game season was starting to set in, this list of injuries should drive the point home. Even by such standards, plenty of NHL teams are reeling – publicly or not – in mid-November.

This continues a tough stretch of injury news, as John Klingberg ranked among the biggest names in the last batch of unsettling updates.

  • Sidney Crosby is the biggest name, and the latest news from the Pittsburgh Penguins presents a mixed bag.

Whenever you hear the words “Sidney Crosby” and “upper-body injury,” the reflex is to worry that his career-threatening concussion issues have surfaced again. The good news is that, at least according to the Penguins, Crosby is not dealing with a concussion. While it’s worth noting that teams can be less-than-forthcoming when it comes to injury updates, we’ll have to take this as heartening for now.

(It helps their argument that it’s not exactly clear when the injury happened.)

The less promising news is that Mike Sullivan believes that Crosby will miss about a week, with number 87 carrying a day-to-day designation. Take a look at the remainder of the Penguins’ November schedule for some context:

Thu, Nov. 15 vs. Tampa Bay
Sat, Nov. 17 @ Ottawa
Mon, Nov. 19 vs. Buffalo
Wed, Nov. 21 vs. Dallas
Fri, Nov. 23 @ Boston
Sat, Nov. 24 vs. Columbus
Tue, Nov. 27 @ Winnipeg
Wed, Nov. 28 @ Colorado

So, if Sullivan is correct, Crosby would miss somewhere between 3-4 games. If things progress more slowly than anticipated, it could sting quite a bit more, considering the Penguins’ two back-to-back sets on Nov. 23-24 and Nov. 27-28.

The Penguins were already struggling, and no Crosby takes a little steam out of the acquisition of Tanner Pearson, but it sounds like things could have been a lot worse.

The earliest indication from Joe Smith of The Athletic (sub required) is that Vasilevskiy could miss three-to-four weeks, although that could change. Considering how crucial mobility is for goalies – who can’t really be “hidden” in the lineup, compared to skaters who might get by at far less than 100 percent – this is a troubling injury.

On the bright side, the Lightning have at least built a playoff buffer for themselves, as their East-leading 25 points gives them a six-point cushion against the three teams outside on the bubble (Capitals, Hurricanes, and Flyers) right now. As Smith notes, the Bolts also don’t deal with the sort of back-to-back sets that could really exacerbate this problem, at least not until early-December (when they face road games against the Devils and Red Wings on Dec. 3-4).

They don’t have much of a lead in the daunting Atlantic Division, however, as the Maple Leafs (who won’t feel a lot of sympathy with Auston Matthews out) only behind by one point in the same 18 games played.

While Eddie Pasquale has been recalled to serve as a backup, Louis Domingue is set to be the workhorse until Vasilevskiy returns, unless the Lightning decide that they need to bring in outside help via a trade. This continues a remarkable journey for Domingue, who was pondering quitting the sport altogether not so long ago.

That’s a cool story, but it could be more maudlin if he struggles. The Penguins and Lightning play on Thursday night in a game that’s suddenly depleted of significant star power.

(Luckily, both teams are still pretty loaded, even if they’re more vulnerable to slumps now.)

The Bruins are expected to provide more information as they take a longer look at the 41-year-old’s knee, whether that examination happens on Friday or possibly later. NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty notes that the tree-sized defenseman has dealt with knee issues before, so here’s hoping that the fitness freak avoids the worst.

If nothing else, the B’s have been able to (mostly) weather the storm of defensemen injuries so far, as both Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy have been limited to seven games played apiece so far in 2018-19. Granted, McAvoy is still out and Brandon Carlo is also banged up, so it remains to be seen if Boston can fight off all of these issues.

  • The Nashville Predators are off to a hot start to the season, which is comforting to think about as they grapple with some troubling injuries.

Not long after being activated from IR, scrappy scoring machine Viktor Arvidsson is back on it, as the team announced that he’s expected to miss six-to-eight weeks (ouch) with a broken thumb (double ouch). Winning the Central Division won’t be easy with that first-line spark plug missing such a big chunk of the season.

It’s not clear how long they might be without P.K. Subban. He’s currently considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

Nashville is rightly praised for amassing impressive depth during this salary cap era. That depth looks to be tested, particularly if Subban’s issue forces him out for more than a brief lull.

Moments after this post went up, Nashville announced that Subban is on IR, so that’s not promising.

  • The Washington Capitals are finally being bit by the injury bug after sporting freakish levels of repellant under the Barry Trotz regime. It’s unclear, however, how hard they’ve been bitten. It may not be clearer until Friday, if not later.

Still, it’s wise to keep an eye on Braden Holtby, T.J. Oshie, and Evgeny Kuznetsov going forward.

  • As a reminder, the Anaheim Ducks announced that surgery is scheduled for Cam Fowler on Friday, as he’s dealing with some nasty-sounding facial injuries. This could be quite the painful pill to swallow, considering how awful Anaheim’s looking on defense as of late. The specific timetable is unclear, but that doesn’t sound good.
  • Rotoworld’s injury listings could be handy for those who want even more updates, such as Tomas Hertl being day-to-day for the San Jose Sharks. That’s especially true for those who are deep in the woods from a fantasy perspective.
  • There hasn’t been a ton of great news, although it sounds like James van Riemsdyk is finally slated to return for the Philadelphia Flyers against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins rookie Vaakanainen concussed by Borowiecki; Discipline coming?

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(UPDATE: Borowiecki will have a Wednesday hearing with the NHL DoPS.)

Already playing without a couple of defenders (Torey Krug, Kevan Miller) the Boston Bruins lost another one on Tuesday night when rookie Urho Vaakanainen, playing in just his second NHL game, had to leave their game against the Ottawa Senators after he was elbowed in the face by Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki during a scramble around the front of the Ottawa net.

The Bruins later announced that Vaakanainen has already been diagnosed with a concussion.

You can see the play in the video above.

He was not penalized on the play, but that is not a good look for Borowieckiy because you can clearly see him look at Vaakanainen as he skates in and deliberately raise his elbow to hit him in the head.

I get that the front of the net is a tough area, but this isn’t 1980 anymore and that type of needless play should not be looked at as “okay” just because there is a scramble.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will almost certainly review that play and he could be be facing some discipline for it. If the NHL determines it is a play worthy of discipline that could be bad news for Borowiecki because he has been suspended once before and the player on the receiving end of his hit was injured. Those two things always factor into the punishment.

Vaakanainen was the selected by the Bruins in the first-round of the 2017 draft with the No. 18 overall pick.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bruins top line picking up where it left off

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The Boston Bruins have had one of the NHL’s most dominant lines over the past two years in the trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, a group that has put some video game type numbers on the board. Over the past two years alone the Bruins outscored teams by a 54-35 margin and attempted more than 60 percent of the total shot attempts when they were on the ice during 5-on-5 play. Individually, all three were among the league’s top-25 scorers in points-per-game this past season.

They not only carried the Bruins offense, they carried the entire team with their relentless two-way play.

Three games into the 2018-19 season and they are still dominating, and it continued on Monday in their 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. That game featured a hat trick from Bergeron, a three-assist game from Marchand (which follows a four assist game on Saturday), and a four-point day (two goals, two assists) from Pastrnak.

So far this season their stat lines are just as dominant as you might expect:

  • Patrice Bergeron: four goals, two assists, six total points
  • Brad Marchand: zero goals, seven assists, seven total points
  • David Pastrnak: three goals, two assists, five total points

This through the first three games of the season this trio of players has accounted for seven of the team’s first 10 goals, after accounting for more than 36 percent of the team’s total goals a year ago. What makes that percentage even more astonishing is the fact that Bergeron and Marchand each missed more than 15 games due to injury (or in the case of Marchand, injury and/or suspension). So that percentage could have easily been even higher.

The good news for the Bruins is that line can pretty clearly carry the team in every phase of the game as they are just as dominant without the puck (which doesn’t happen often) as they are with it.

The key question for the Bruins is going to be whether they get enough consistent offense and production from the rest of the team to help take them to the next level, because as good as these three are nobody is winning a championship with just one line. I happen to think the Bruins can find enough around them because they have some really intriguing young players filling out the rest of the roster in Danton Heinen, Ryan Donato, and Jake DeBrusk, while they are also still playing without their top offensive option on the blue line in Torey Krug.

No matter what happens with the rest of the team, the line at the top is going to ensure they at least have a chance to win every single night.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bruins’ Torey Krug sidelined three weeks with ankle injury

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The one thing NHL teams do not want to see in the preseason is injuries to established players. This preseason has been especially costly for teams as Anaheim’s Corey Perry and Columbus’ Seth Jones are just a couple of the players to be sidelined for the start of the season.

On Monday we found out another name that can be added to that list as the Boston Bruins announced defenseman Torey Krug will be sidelined for at least three weeks due to a left ankle injury that he suffered in Saturday’s preseason game.

According to general manager Don Sweeney, this injury is unrelated to the fractured ankle he suffered in the playoffs this past season.

Krug’s absence will be a big blow to the Bruins’ blue line over the first month of the season as he has emerged as one of their top players and one of the most productive defenders in the league, having topped the 50-point mark in each of the past two seasons. He finished the 2017-18 season among the top-15 among the league’s defenders in goals (14) and total points (59). Along with that he was also the Bruins’ fourth-leading scorer, trailing only their big three forwards Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak.

Sweeney said that Krug will be evaluated again in three weeks.

With Krug sidelined this means the Bruins will need to rely even more on veteran Zdeno Chara and their young star, Charlie McAvoy. Chara isn’t as dominant as he once was but he is still a really good player, while McAvoy is quickly developing into a legitimate top-pairing defender. Still, for as good as they are Krug brings an element offensively that is, at this point, just a touch above what the others can do.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Tavares pursuit may not be last time tensions rise between Bruins, Krejci

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Sports often inspire a callous “what have you done for me lately?” attitude toward players, something that must cut deeper for players who’ve been with one team for a long time.

With that in mind, it’s not shocking that David Krejci admitted that it hurt when the Boston Bruins made a failed bid to sign John Tavares. Krejci recently opened up to NBC Boston’s Joe Haggerty about his experiences. From what he said, it sounds like being in the dark and being badgered by certain Bruins fans bothered him the most.

“I had no idea what was going on. My agent didn’t tell my [anything] because he said he didn’t know anything. I didn’t get any phone calls from anyone from the Bruins,” Krejci said. “So I was just getting those Instargram messages [telling me to request a trade] in my inbox. I know that I have a no-trade so they would have to call me [if they did end up signing Tavares].

“Yeah, that wasn’t kind of something I enjoyed. But it was over pretty quick. It was a quick couple of weeks. It is what it is.”

Krejci is correct about that being a quick process, as most will probably forget that the Bruins were even – tangentially – in the mix for Tavares.

It’s tough to shake the feeling that this won’t be the last tense moment between the Bruins and Krejci as the team tries to balance attempts at improving with salary cap management. With that in mind, this Tavares situation could reverberate. After all, if you’re Krejci, are you that excited to waive your no-trade clause for a management group that didn’t seem to make even a token gesture toward communicating during the Tavares sweepstakes? And, as much as Krejci appreciates the majority of fans, should he bow to a trade request after getting nasty messages, even if they came from just a few bad apples?

“I have a lot of fans, which is great,” Krejci said. “I think it’s a common thing where people say ‘Awesome, awesome…great job’ and you appreciate it. But if there’s a bad comment it sticks in your head. So that wasn’t nice.”

Impressive accomplishments

It’s not nice for a player who’s meant a lot to the Bruins, even if Krejci’s work hasn’t always been as heralded as it maybe should have been.

Most memorably, Krejci topped all playoff scorers in 2012-13 (26 points, seven more than anyone else) and 2010-11 (23), helping the Bruins win that 2011 Stanley Cup. Since that championship season, Krejci’s scored 418 points, the third-best mark for Boston after Brad Marchand (458) and Patrice Bergeron (454).

Of course, it’s understandable for someone to cringe while scanning the Bruins’ Cap Friendly page, considering that Krejci carries the team’s highest cap hit at $7.25M, and cringe that the 32-year-old’s contract lasts three more seasons. His contract isn’t the worst on the books, yet it’s a lot easier to imagine the Bruins landing a good trade return for Krejci instead of a banged-up, rapidly declining David Backes. And so, that opens the door for social media cruelty.

Gas left in the tank

Beyond being mean, it’s far too easy to dismiss that Krejci still brings value as a player, even if it’s debatable if he’s worth $7.25M.

(He’s not worth more than David Pastrnak, Marchand, or Bergeron, but all three of those guys are being paid less than they’d make on the open market anyway, and probably by a massive margin.)

Bruins fans might grumble at Krejci finishing the 2017-18 regular season with 17 goals and 44 points, yet he did so while struggling through injuries (just 64 games played). You could argue that Krejci sputtered against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the bottom line is that he generated 10 points in 12 games during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Krejci deserves ample credit for helping Jake DeBrusk take his game up a notch, even if things didn’t go as swimmingly with Rick Nash.

Krejci also generated solid possession stats, although you can dock him a bit for also enjoying cushy offensive zone starts. There are even some ways where Krejci meets or exceeds Tavares, as you can see from this comparison via Bill Comeau’s SKATR tool.

Those are far from “run this guy out of town” numbers, right?

Will he have a long memory?

Still, one can understand why the Bruins might want to trade Krejci. With Krejci likely to decline further considering he’s 32, the Bruins would probably choose Torey Krug instead, and looming raises for young players (most prominently Charlie McAvoy, who’s about to enter a contract year) might force such a decision.

According to Cap Friendly, Krejci has a no-movement clause for 2018-19 and a modified version in 2019-20 and 2020-21. During those latter years, he’d be asked to provide a list of teams he’d accept a trade to, which would amount to half of the NHL (which would be 15, as the clause states that you’d round down). One could see a scenario where he’d feel pressure to OK a trade that entail going to a cellar-dweller, or a place he wouldn’t want to play.

In that moment, Bruins fans and management could be breathing down Krejci’s neck. Don’t blame Krejci if he does what’s best for him then, especially after what happened during that brief (but telling?) push for Tavares.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.