Injuries affect each NHL team differently and some can overcome, but others are too much and the season is a wipe. This season teams have already suffered significant injuries and battled through or struggled mightily out of the gate. This article will take a look at each team’s most significant current injury. In doing so, we will also look at how each team has done in the absence of said player(s) and the timetable for their return.
The most significant injury on the Anaheim Ducks roster is Max Comtois. It may have actually come at a perfect time, as he was struggling and maybe something will click after some time off. Just last week, he was projected to be out for about six weeks. He only contributed one assist in 13 games this season while the Ducks were on a tear. Not factoring in on much of the success of the team so far, both parties hope he can find his stride upon returning in late December or early January. His play got him demoted to the fourth line and now a spot has opened up for someone else to prove what they can do.
In a season where a number of young players were hopefully supposed to improve at the NHL level, the Arizona Coyotes have had a couple of untimely injuries. Both Nick Schmaltz and Conor Timmins only played in six games before they each suffered injuries. Timmins’ season is over, which isn’t great for his development, but Schmaltz should be back around the start of December and take his place as the top-line centre.
Schmaltz is a bigger loss than Timmins for this season, but that’s just because he has come into his own more and already has his place in the Coyotes’ lineup. When Schmaltz has been healthy since joining the team, he has been able to produce. It won’t be a gamechanger for them this season, as it is evident the Coyotes are in rebuild mode and losing would only help them get a better pick in the stacked 2022 Draft.
The Boston Bruins have no major injuries at the moment, and they would like to keep it that way. Their only injured player is Trent Frederick. His upper-body injury that he has been dealing with since Nov. 9 has kept him out of the lineup. The good news is that he has been skating with a full contact jersey and is expected to be back very soon. He is seen as a depth forward when healthy, but right now the Bruins need their depth to step up and contribute. He will once again get his shot when he is ready to play.
Another team in rebuild mode, the Buffalo Sabres would like to have their young players healthy and in their lineup growing. Casey Mittelstadt has been kept out of the lineup in all but one game this season after showing signs of real improvement last season. Newly acquired Alex Tuch is also injured, but we have yet to see what he can provide this season at all, not just for the Sabres.
The Calgary Flames have gotten very lucky with their health this season. Only one player, Brett Ritchie, has missed any significant time. His injury status is still unknown, but it was a tossup as to if he would even be a contributing factor in the Flames’ lineup every night. After playing the first nine games of the season, he’s been out since.
Ritchie recorded no points this season and was replaced in the lineup by what looks like an upgrade in Brad Richardson. He has been a fixture in Ritchie’s absence and has produced more in about the same amount of games. Look for some competition on the fourth line when Ritchie comes back, as the Flames have been doing very well without him.
The only injured player that the Carolina Hurricanes are dealing with is Jake Gardiner. Even if he was healthy, there isn’t much room on the solid blue line after acquiring Tony DeAngelo, Ethan Bear, Ian Cole, and Brendan Smith. Gardiner got hip and back surgery and is out indefinitely. There may be problems fitting him in the lineup and keeping the team under the cap if he is to return this season.
The Chicago Blackhawks have really turned it around as of late, coinciding with Derek King taking over as head coach. The team just wasn’t able to figure it out as a whole. The most recent impactful injury to the Blackhawks’ lineup was Tyler Johnson. He was injured after only playing in eight games, all of which the team lost, having started the season on a nine-game winless streak. With how they have found a way to win lately, Johnson doesn’t factor in much of the turnaround.
By far the most significant injury on the Colorado Avalanche is to Nathan MacKinnon. The good news is he should be back next week if there are no setbacks. Surprisingly enough, in his absence, Nazem Kadri has stepped up and been outstanding and has scored six goals and 15 assists in the last 10 games. MacKinnon has only gotten into eight games this season, but at over a point per game, he would be welcomed back as soon as possible.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets would like nothing more than to get Patrik Laine back from injury after he started very strong, a total flip from his first season in Columbus. He is still expected to be out for another two weeks and the team has held their own in his absence. But as a team whose status is up in the air and should play a lot of close games, Laine’s finishing ability in overtime would continue to help win them some games.
The Dallas Stars’ significant injuries are only in net. But it may have been for the best, as it has given Jake Oettinger a chance to join the team after starting in the American Hockey League (AHL) once the Stars signed Braden Holtby. The winning started at the same time as Oettinger got the call to start games. Ben Bishop has been out all season but has been practicing with the team and is eligible to return anytime. (“Stars goalie Ben Bishop eligible to return from LTIR following Thursday’s game vs. Calgary”, The Dallas Morning News, Nov. 4, 2021) The Stars shouldn’t rush him back, as their young goaltender is holding down the fort just fine and gaining more NHL experience.
Detroit Red Wings
The bad news came for the Detroit Red Wings before the season even began. One of their stars, Jakub Vrana, suffered a shoulder injury that would keep him out of action for four months at the end of September. The Red Wings weren’t expected to compete this season, but some other youngsters have stepped up in his absence and have kept the team competitive. Vrana’s scoring ability is sorely missed, but hopefully he will be back by the Olympic break.
The Edmonton Oilers’ left defence has been riddled with injuries all at once: Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith, Slater Koekkoek, and already expected to miss the entire season, Oscar Klefbom. The good news is that Keith is day-to-day and Nurse is only expected to be out three weeks. His timetable for return is in two weeks and the injury is just to his finger — nothing serious. The Oilers are going to need Nurse back as soon as possible, as he is their No. 1 defenceman and eats a ton of minutes against the opponent’s top lines.
Another big loss in the third game of the season was Mike Smith. With the Oilers’ goaltending already in question, Mikko Koskinen was forced into the starter role very early. With the emergence of Stuart Skinner to take some of the weight off of Koskinen, the Oilers are still able to win games solely off of their goal-scoring ability. Smith was just recently placed on the long-term injured reserve (LTIR) and expected to miss a lot more time than initially predicted.
Florida Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury and is skating, which is a good sign. He will need a little more time to rehab his injury before returning to the lineup. The Panthers have continued to win without their franchise centre, but will look a lot stronger when he is back on the first line.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings haven’t been fortunate with injuries this season, especially to the back end. Sean Walker suffered a season-ending injury just six games into the season and Drew Doughty is expected to miss a couple more weeks after an incredible start offensively, scoring seven points in the first four games. The Kings’ defensive depth has been tested and has fared well, including a seven-game winning streak since both defencemen have been out. They will only look stronger and battle for a playoff spot when Doughty returns.
Another injury that is affecting the player more than the team is Quinton Byfield, who has been out since training camp after being expected to make the team this season and add even more centre depth to the Kings.
Only one player on the Minnesota Wild is even injured, but it is one that will surely affect the team moving forward until he returns. Jared Spurgeon is listed as week-to-week after getting injured last Saturday. He may be out for some time due to his injury status. He has played an overall game well this year, and the Wild should be able to hold down the fort since this year’s success on the back end has been accomplished by committee.
The Nashville Predators are a completely healthy team after Filip Forsberg returned from an upper-body injury that kept him out for nine games. Upon his return, he scored two goals, so the team is happy to have him back.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils have been without top-line centre Jack Hughes since Game 3 of the season after he dislocated his shoulder. He was listed as week-to-week but will be evaluated sometime late next week. The Devils are in the thick of it in a tough division and playing well despite the injuries and expectations. Some players have stepped up in his absence, but after starting out recording three points in those two games, Hughes will look to pick up where he left off and hope for a breakout season.
New York Islanders
The already struggling New York Islanders got some bad news as of late when Ryan Pulock suffered a lower-body injury that would keep him out about five weeks, and Brock Nelson is expected to miss three weeks. It’s the last thing the Islanders needed to hear since they need everything going their way to turn around their season.
Both injuries will really hurt the team, as Pulock is their No. 1 defenceman and Nelson scored nine goals in the first 15 games of the season. Pulock should return in about a month and Nelson should be back in just over two weeks.
New York Rangers
Last week the New York Rangers got news that Sammy Blais will miss six months with an ACL injury. That removes him from the Rangers’ plans this season and they will look to replace him after only playing in 14 games. He’s not a massive factor, but he did contribute, and the team would have loved to have him down the stretch when games get tougher to win.
Rookie centre Shane Pinto suffered a shoulder injury after only five games this season and it may result in him missing the rest of the season for the Ottawa Senators. (“SNAPSHOTS: Still no decision on whether Senators’ injured Shane Pinto will require surgery”, Ottawa Sun, Nov. 20, 2021) If so, he will still have his rookie status as he needs to play in one more game to have this season count. A young player that will be part of the future in Ottawa, they will hope that he doesn’t need surgery and that an entire year doesn’t go to waste.
The Philadelphia Flyers have had injury problems with two of their key players this season, newly acquired Ryan Ellis and second-line centreman Kevin Hayes. Hayes just recently suffered a re-injury after only playing in two games and recording two points. The team’s depth is being tested and will need him healthy as soon as possible as they are struggling with scoring.
Early last week, Ellis was given a timetable of five weeks until he returns to the lineup. He too has barely gotten into any games due to injury problems. In those four games he has five points — another key contributor in the scoring department that the Flyers are sorely missing.
After a very rough start with injuries, the Pittsburgh Penguins are inching closer to being at full health for the first time this season. The team hasn’t had anyone injured since Nov. 13, and Mark Friedman returned two days later. They navigated the waters of Sidney Crosby missing 11 games this season while they are still without Evgeni Malkin. They will continue to be without Malkin for at least another couple of weeks as he was initially projected to miss the first two months of the season. Once he returns and gets up to speed, the Penguins will be a force to be reckoned with.
San Jose Sharks
Right now, rookie Jonathan Dahlen’s status is up in the air as to how much time he’ll miss with an arm injury he suffered on Nov. 20. The team would hate for him to miss too much time after his great start, scoring seven goals in the first 16 games of the season. To this point, he has missed three games. Hopefully fans will get an update soon about his status.
The only player that the Seattle Kraken currently have injured is Calle Jarnkrok. His performance has been underwhelming after he had higher expectations. In 14 games played this season, he has just managed to record one goal and an assist. The Kraken have lots of forward depth with players still competing for ice time. He may not be out that long, but right now there is no information on what his injury is or how long it will keep him out of the lineup.
St. Louis Blues
St. Louis has been affected more with injuries on the back end than at forward recently. Robert Bortuzzo is the only player injured and listed as day-to-day, but his absence from the lineup has given rookie Scott Perunovich a chance in the NHL and he’s taking full advantage. It has only been a couple of days since Bortuzzo was listed as injured, and he should be back soon.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Where do we start with this team? Injuries to key players have affected the Tampa Bay Lightning over the past couple of seasons, but it all seems to fall into place, so there’s not much panic when it comes to hearing bad news about star players missing significant time to injury. Two of the stars of this team have already or will miss a good amount of time over the next month or two, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.
Kucherov’s injury came early this season, as he only played three games but recorded four points. The team’s depth was tested early with finding a replacement from within to fill some of the void left in his absence once again. He was given a timetable of 8-10 weeks after his surgery in October, and that would allow him to return in late December or early January.
Point is considered week-to-week but 4-6 weeks is a realistic timetable for his return. Losing another top player in the league hurts the Lightning, and he was starting to find his game with 13 points in 16 games after a slow start. The team would like to continue to stay competitive in the absence of two of their top players and after losing their entire third line in the offseason. The team is still 11-4-3 without Kucherov for most of the season, but the loss of Point on top of that may start to hurt them more.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The biggest injury to the Toronto Maple Leafs is to backup goaltender Petr Mrazek. Initially signed to give Jack Campbell support in goal, as he hadn’t fully proven himself yet. That signing has gone south in a hurry, as Campbell has been one of the best goaltenders in the league this season and Mrazek posted horrible numbers in his two games, while once again getting injured. He is expected to be sidelined until mid-December, but you never know with groin injuries, especially with goalies.
Vancouver Canucks’ Matthew Highmore has missed the entire month of November with a hand injury and his timetable is still unknown. Seen as a depth player, he only recorded two assists in the eight games this season. Not a huge loss, and I don’t believe a return from him would change the Canucks’ fortunes right now.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights have really been through it with injuries this season, and they’ve managed to stay afloat while some of their star players have begun to return. The injuries are far from over with this team, though, as they still have Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Nolan Patrick, and Alec Martinez out.
Eichel has yet to play a game this season, but his return is set for sometime around the Olympics, just in time for the stretch towards playoffs. Karlsson suffered a foot injury that will keep him out another three or so weeks. Patrick’s injury problems in his career continue, as he has been listed as day-to-day since Oct. 24, while Martinez’s injury to his face has kept him out of the lineup for almost two weeks now. Neither Patrick nor Martinez have timetables for their returns.
The Washington Capitals have fared very well despite all the significant injuries to their key forwards. T.J. Oshie was placed on the injured reserve for the second time this season with a lower-body injury without any news on when he will return. At the beginning of the month, Anthony Mantha suffered a shoulder injury and is out indefinitely.
Nicklas Backstrom, on the other hand, has missed the entire season with a hip injury. He is getting closer to returning, as he has been seen skating in a non-contact jersey at Capitals’ practices, but the forward depth for the team has really stepped up in a major way and kept the Capitals not only in it, but at the top.
The Winnipeg Jets have been generally healthy this season. One player they would like to see return to the lineup and give the team more depth is Paul Stastny. He has been out since the start of November with a foot injury. There is no timetable for his return, but one would be welcomed after he put up eight points in his first 11 games of the season.
Of all these injuries, some teams have managed to play well despite it, while it was a big blow to others. While injuries can be seen as all bad, there is always silver a lining with the opportunity provided to other players to step up and get more ice time with more skilled players. A healthy league would be great, but that’s near impossible.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
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