NHL Injury Roundup: Evgeni Malkin to miss two months; Backstrom sidelined
NHL training camps opened on Thursday and we are starting to get some early injury information on who will be ready for the start of the season, and who might not be ready.
The big news on Thursday was probably the expected update on the Jack Eichel situation in Buffalo where he failed his physical, there remains a difference of opinion on surgery options, and the team stripped him of his captaincy. Bad situation all around. But that is not the only significant news of the day.
Here are a few other significant updates.
Evgeni Malkin to miss at least two months
The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to open the 2021-22 season without their two-headed monster of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at center.
Crosby is going to miss a few weeks as he recovers from a recent wrist procedure, while Malkin will remain sidelined as he continues to make his way back from offseason surgery. Malkin’s absence has been expected, we just did not have any idea on the timeline for a potential return. General manager Ron Hextall confirmed on Thursday morning that it will be at least two months.
With Crosby and Malkin sidelined at the start that will means Jeff Carter will open the season as the team’s No. 1 center with Teddy Blueger likely sliding into the second line role until Crosby is able to return.
Not an ideal situation by any means, and certainly makes the offseason trade of Jared McCann (something that was almost certainly forced by the expansion draft) seem even more significant.
The Penguins have found some success in the past with Crosby and Malkin sidelined, but it is still going to be a significant challenge to open the year.
Nicklas Backstrom dealing with hip issue
Crosby and Malkin are not the only centers dealing with some injury issues at the start of the season. The Washington Capitals announced on Thursday morning that top center Nicklas Backstrom willl miss the start of training camp and is currently listed as “week-to-week” as he continues to rehab a hip issue that has bothered him since this past season.
Backstrom has had hip issues in the past, so it is a bit of a concern that he is currently sidelined to start the season.
If it turns out to be something that lingers into the season the team does still have Evgeny Kuznetsov on the roster to take over that top spot. Kuznetsov was the subject of trade rumors and speculation all offseason but said on Thursday he is not surprised to still be in Washington and is motivated to have a big season.
Whether Backstrom is healthy or not, the Capitals need Kuznetsov to return to the form he showed two years ago.
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Mike Hoffman doubtful for start of season
The Montreal Canadiens underwent a lot of change this offseason and Mike Hoffman was one of the more significant additions. But coach Dominique Ducharme announced on Thursday that Hoffman sustained a lower-body injury before arriving in Montreal and is doubtful to start the regular season on time.
He scored 17 goals and 19 assists in 52 games for the St. Louis Blues a year ago.
In other Canadiens news, starting goalie Carey Price failed his physical at the start of camp. The Canadiens are hopeful he can appear in at least one preseason game and be ready for the start of the regular season, but that is not yet a guarantee.
Ben Bishop not yet cleared for game action
After missing the entire 2020-21 season Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop is able to participate in training camp, but he is not yet cleared for game action according to general manager Jim Nill.
He missed last season after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus.
The Stars are still pretty set in goal with Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger returning, while also having signed veteran Braden Holtby to a one-year contract in free agency.
The Stars also anticipate forward Roope Hintz to be ready for the start of the regular season as he continues to work his way back from offseason surgery.
Devon Toews expected to miss some games
Some significant news for the Colorado Avalanche as they will be without one of their top defenseman, Devon Toews, for the start of the season as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
The Avalanche acquired Toews before the start of the 2020-21 season for two draft picks and he immediately became one of their top defenders. He scored nine goals with 22 assists in 53 games, while also posting tremendous possession numbers. He has been a steal for general manager Joe Sakic and the Avalanche.
The Avalanche also lost Ryan Graves this offseason, trading him to the New Jersey Devils.
They still have Cale Makar and Sam Girard to lead the defense, while top prospect Bowen Byram (the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft) is knocking on the door. So it should still be an elite defense.