Ballard sidelined while injury baffles Canucks

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Vancouver Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard will miss his third consecutive game tonight with an injury that isn’t totally clear to his team, according to’s Kevin Woodley.

Alain Vigneault said that the Canucks aren’t sure if it’s “neck-related or concussion-related.” Ballard is dealing with headaches but Vancouver is unsure of the root cause, so he’ll be out until the team’s doctors figure that out.

As Woodley points out, the line between concussion and neck-related injuries blurred in a high-profile way with Sidney Crosby’s neck issues, so it’s not surprising that the Canucks are handling this situation with kid gloves. The bigger surprise to some might be that Ballard’s a more prominent piece of the puzzle in Vancouver after being a fairly routine (and expensive) healthy scratch during the 2010-11 season and playoffs.

Nathan Horton skates, but doesn’t travel with Bruins

The Boston Bruins traveled to Washington without Nathan Horton this weekend but the big forward is still showing some signs of progress.’s Joe Haggerty reports that Horton is starting to skate again, although it’s anyone’s guess how far he is from taking contact in practice – let alone in NHL games.

Horton is attempting to come back from a “mild concussion” after Philadelphia Flyers tough guy Tom Sestito hit him on Jan. 22. Bruins coach Claude Julien describes him as “day-to-day,” which can really mean anything.

Haggerty points out that the Bruins were scoring 2.4 goals per game without Horton before they got things together a bit by beating the Washington Capitals 4-1.

Sidney Crosby is skating again, hoping for second return


Sidney Crosby’s absence from the 2012 NHL All-Star Game might seem deafening to some, but he’s not giving up on the 2011-12 campaign altogether.

ESPN’s Craig Custance reports that Crosby’s been skating “pretty much” all week as he hopes to make a second comeback this season. Custance reports that he did some skating in both Atlanta and Los Angeles as he does a Carmen Sandiego tour of specialists.

Of course, there’s the inevitable caveat: he still doesn’t have a timetable for a return.

No other details were revealed as far as his progress, so we’ll just have to settle for that little nugget for now.

Flyers GM won’t make “any rash decisions” to replace Pronger


On the heels of some sad anecdotes from Chris Pronger’s wife Lauren,’s Tim Panaccio caught up with Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren to pick his brain on the subject.

To start things off, Holmgren said that he “holds no hope” that Pronger will return any time during this season or the playoffs. He didn’t exactly provide a promising answer if this could be a career-ending injury, either, only saying “I don’t know” when asked.

“We hope for the best for Chris,” Holmgren said. “Over time here, maybe we need to look to prepare for the worst. I don’t think we’re at that point right now.”

Panaccio reports that Pronger is looking into new therapies and even wearing prescription glasses to try to improve his situation. He’ll meet with doctors again on Feb. 1.

So with another confirmation that Pronger won’t be available for the Flyers in the foreseeable future, will Holmgren make a move (*cough* Ryan Suter *cough*) to try to fill the void?

“We’re not going to make any rash decisions,” Holmgren said. “We’ll continue to look at the team for the present and the future and if something comes up that makes sense, we’ll see what we can do.”

In other concussion-related news for the Flyers, Panaccio reports that James van Riemsdyk hasn’t skated yet but hasn’t experienced any issues while working out.

The Flyers have shown some aptitude in rolling with the injury punches, but surely they’d be glad to get their hot-and-cold power forward back – especially since their menacing defenseman won’t be in the lineup again this season.

Radek Martinek’s season is over; Columbus signs Brett Lebda


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.