Early injuries have teams feeling the pain

BY foxsports • October 12, 2009

Injuries are a part of any National Hockey League season but a little over a week into 2009-10, several NHL teams have already lost key players.

  • Montreal Canadiens all-star defenseman Andrei Markov was hurt during a 4-3 season-opening victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs when the skate blade of Canadiens goaltender Carey Price accidentally sliced a tendon in Markov's left ankle during a goalmouth scramble.

    For a Canadiens team hoping to rebound from a poor finish to last season, the loss of their best player for four months is seen as a serious blow for their playoff hopes.

  • The 2009 Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings lost a significant offensive contributor during their 3-2 victory last week over the Chicago Blackhawks when winger Johan Franzen tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, sidelining him — like Markov — for up to four months.

    Having already lost significant scoring punch in the off-season to free agency (Marian Hossa and Mikael Samuelsson) and Russia's Kontinental Hockey League (Jiri Hudler), the loss of Franzen — who potted 37 goals last season — for such a lengthy period only heightens concerns over the Wings goal production this season.

  • Part of the reason the Vancouver Canucks re-signed the talented Sedin twins this past June was their durability. Since 2005-06 the pair played together for all but one game when Daniel missed a game in 2006-07.

    The twins however will be separated for possibly the next six weeks as Daniel suffered a broken left foot during the Canucks 7-1 victory last Wednesday over the Canadiens.

  • The Carolina Hurricanes offense suffered a notable blow last week when winger Erik Cole suffered a fractured left leg during a 7-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

    Cole netted 13 points in 17 regular-season games last season after being reacquired from the Edmonton Oilers. Losing him for up to six weeks could have an adverse effect on the Hurricanes second-line scoring.

    For some teams the injury bug struck in the preseason.

    The New Jersey Devils lost veteran center Patrik Elias for up to six weeks when he underwent groin surgery in mid-September to clean up some scar tissue.

    Elias, who netted 78 points in 77 games last season, started skating again this past week and it's expected he could return to action before month's end. His absence in the meantime has been considered one factor in the Devils' 2-2 start to this season.

    At least the Devils expect to get Elias back soon. For the Canadiens, Red Wings, Canucks and Hurricanes finding short-term replacements for Markov, Franzen, Sedin and Cole respectively won't be easy.

    The Canadiens moved swiftly in signing veteran free agent defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron to a one-year contract. Bergeron won't be able to replace the all-round skills of Markov but he does have a good scoring touch — potting 14 goals and 32 points last season with the Minnesota Wild — which could help offset the loss of Markov's offensive contributions, especially on the power-play.

    The Red Wings and Hurricanes however don't have the luxury of finding short-term replacements for Franzen and Cole via free agency and both their respective general managers said they'll look within their organizations for help.

    It's expected the Canucks will move forward Steve Bernier into Daniel Sedin's spot on the top line with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows.

    In the years before the salary cap those teams could consider going the trade route for short-term help but nowadays they have cap space to manage which in part would hamper efforts to find help, especially this early in the season.

    How well these teams address their injured stars will have an impact upon their placement in the standings.

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