Let’s look at the many, many key injuries heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs
Over the next few months, you’ll be subjected to a litany of stories -- some written by PHT! -- about players getting hurt during the exhausting, physical Stanley Cup playoff grind.
So why not get out in front, and look at all the players hurt heading into the postseason?
Because there are a lot of them.
• Let’s start in Tampa, where captain and former 60-goal scorer Steve Stamkos is out 1-3 months following vascular thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. The procedure, which removed Stamkos’ upper right rib, was conducted on Apr. 4 and, according to the doctor that performed the surgery, Stamkos would be re-evaluated “in about two weeks.”
That would put the re-evaluation around Apr. 18, and Game 4 of the Bolts’ opening-round series with Detroit is on the 19th. There is hope a speedy recovery process would allow Stamkos to return at some point during the postseason, possibly as early as the second round.
• Let’s stick in Tampa, where veteran defenseman Anton Stralman is out indefinitely with a fractured left leg. A 22-minutes-per-night guy that’s among the Bolts’ best possession d-men, Stralman is a valuable right-handed shot, on a blueline that doesn’t have many. So needless to say, it’s a big loss.
Neither the club nor Stralman has ruled out a return, but there’s no timeline for it.
“Who knows? There’s definitely going to be a few weeks, it’s a fractured bone,” he said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “It has to heal. I hope I’ve got good healing powers, otherwise I’ll blame my dad.”
• Pittsburgh’s also dealing with injuries to a star center and valuable defenseman.
Evgeni Malkin, out with an upper-body injury, is expected to miss the first two rounds. While Malkin is a major loss -- the former Hart and Conn Smythe winner has 111 points in 101 career playoff games -- the Pens have thrived in his absence, and won eight of nine to close out the regular season.
On defense, Olli Maatta (lower body), who hasn’t played since mid-March, was back on the ice at practice Monday, a good sign for his pending return. And in equally good news, starting netminder Marc-Andre Fleury was also at practice. Fleury’s been out of action since Mar. 27 with a concussion.
• In Dallas, star center Tyler Seguin remains sidelined with a lacerated Achilles. The injury occurred in mid-March and forced him to miss the final 10 games of the season. Seguin has said he’ll be back for the playoffs, but the “when” remains unknown -- last week, he resumed skating in a limited fashion, but head coach Lindy Ruff said it was too early to comment on whether Seguin could play in Game 1 versus Minnesota.
• The Isles are dealing with a number of injuries at the moment. Starting goalie Jaroslav Halak’s been out since early March with a groin ailment and, while he’s on target to return by mid-April, it’s hard to envision him getting thrown back into the mix after so much time off.
Minutes-munching defenseman Travis Hamonic is out with a knee injury, versatile forward Anders Lee is out with a broken left fibula and veteran Mikhail Grabovski hasn’t played since Mar. 17 due to a concussion. Of those three, Hamonic seems most likely to return, as he resumed light skating last week.
• The Rangers will reportedly be without captain Ryan McDonagh to start their series against the Pens. McDonagh, who suffered a broken right hand last week, was thought to possibly be out for the entire first round but, over the weekend, Blueshirts head coach Alain Vigneault listed McDonagh as “day-to-day.” Stay tuned...
• Nobody’s really sure what’s going on in St. Louis. Captain David Backes and goalie Jake Allen were shut down for the final three games of the regular season (both lower-body) back in early April. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock has since named Brian Elliott the Game 1 starter against Chicago, and Backes wasn’t at practice on Monday.
• It’s unclear if the Panthers, back in the playoffs for the first time in four years, will have captain Willie Mitchell available for selection. Mitchell, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, has been out since January with post-concussion symptoms, but did practice with the team on Monday. There’s also uncertainty about key forward Vincent Trocheck, who is still in a walking boot after injuring his foot on Mar. 30. Trocheck had 26 points in 27 games prior to getting hurt, so his loss is a big one.
• More unknowns out of Anaheim. Veteran d-man Kevin Bieksa hasn’t played since Mar. 24 due to a lingering upper-body issue, while shifty forward Rickard Rakell (appendicitis) has been out since Mar. 28. Rakell is expected to be ready for Game 1, but the outlook for Bieksa is less clear. David Perron, who had 20 points in 28 games after being acquired from Pittsburgh, is out longer term with a separated shoulder.
• Minnesota will open its series with Dallas minus the services of Thomas Vanek, who will be out “more than a week” with an upper-body injury (per interim head coach John Torchetti). Vanek, who finished fourth on the team with 18 goals this year, is expected to miss at least the first two games of the series.
• San Jose has been without shutdown d-man Marc-Edouard Vlasic since Mar. 17. Vlasic, who’s dealing with a MCL sprain, is expected to be ready to start the opening round against the Kings -- though there could be a rust factor, given he sat out the final 12 games of the regular season.
• Los Angeles is relatively healthy, but there are some players to monitor. Top-four defenseman Alec Martinez is day-to-day with an undisclosed ailment, yet he did skate on Sunday. Veteran winger Marian Gaborik, out since mid-February with a knee injury, was originally thought to be on track for a playoff return, but now he could miss some of the first round. Tough guy Jordan Nolan had back surgery in early March, and could be done for the year.
• Chicago was without the services of Artem Anisimov, Marian Hossa and Andrew Shaw down the stretch, but all returned to practice on Monday.
• What about Washington, you ask? Oh, the Presidents’ Trophy winner heads into the playoffs at 100 percent health, now that Jay Beagle appears ready to dress for Game 1 versus Philly.