Almost every good NHL team has one, or six, and that’s before the puck drops on the war of attrition known as the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Heading into the final weekend of the season, five playoff teams are missing (arguably) their No. 1 goaltender, four more are without their captain, and a handful of others — Dallas, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Chicago — are down at least one superstar forward.
Here is a painful roundup of all the key injuries to players on playoff teams, ranked from healthiest to sickest. Please adjust your pool drafting strategy accordingly.
Star playmaker Nicklas Backstrom (upper body) returned to a Presidents’ Trophy-winning lineup Thursday, making the Capitals the healthiest team entering the post-season.
Top-six forward Justin Abdelkader left Thursday’s loss to the Bruins with a lower-body injury, but — good news, Wings fans — he is expected to play in Saturday’s crucial finale.
Winger Drew Miller has been on long-term injured reserve since January with a knee injury.
Pretty healthy here, knock on wood. Winger Miikka Salomaki has missed two games with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Sounds like defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body) and winger Matt Nieto (hand) will be ready in time for the Sharks’ opening series.
From healthy scratch to unhealthy scratch, shooter Thomas Vanek won’t be available for the beginning of the playoffs due to a lower-body injury that his coach says will keep him out for a week. Zach Parise will sit out Saturday for maintenance but will be ready for Game 1.
Top-four defenceman and 2014 Cup-clinching goal scorer Alec Martinez has been sidelined since April 2 with an undisclosed injury.
Declining sniper Marian Gaborik (knee) has been MIA since early February, and defenceman Matt Greene (shoulder) is done for the season.
Defenceman Michael Del Zotto’s season ended with wrist surgery in February, but the Flyers received great news Thursday.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth (left knee) returned from injury earlier than expected to back up Steve Mason Thursday.
“Is he as sharp as he could be? Probably not,” GM Ron Hextall told CSNPhilly.com. “Hasn’t faced enough shots. Physically, he’s OK. So it’s a matter of him ramping it up. He’s ramped it up quite honestly, I’m surprised, which is good.”
Andrew Shaw (upper body) is done for the regular season. Artem Anisimov will reportedly be good to go for Game 1. Marian Hossa (knee) hasn’t played since March 3. Sigh of relief: No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford (upper body) is expected to start Saturday. All are listed as day-to-day.
Captain Willie Mitchell’s future has been put in doubt with a concussion. Another important defenceman, Erik Gudbranson, is day-to-day as he deals with head and foot issues. And Vincent Trocheck’s best season (25 goals) was chopped short with an ankle injury. The second-line threat is hopeful to return at some point in Round 1.
The Blues have been overcoming injuries all season long. Gritty St. Louis forward Steve Ott was diagnosed with Colitis and will be reevaluated in two weeks. Captain David Backes and goaltender Jake Allen (both lower body) ended their regular seasons early and will be reevaluated before Game 1. And exciting rookie Robby Fabbri (ankle) returns this weekend.
Key defenceman Kris Russell and Jason Demers are just getting back from sick bay, but star forward Tyler Seguin has yet to return from his Achilles injury.
Though Seguin only started skating a couple of days ago, he says he’s hopeful to be ready for the playoffs and has been scarfing down Segs and Bacon burgers to kep his weight up.
A big knock on the blue-line with Ryan McDonagh busting his right hand during a shot block. The captain played three playoff games last spring on a broken foot, so expect him to tough it out as soon as possible.
Fellow D-man Dan Girardi (upper body) is day-to-day after being crunched into the boards by Tampa’s Brian Boyle Tuesday.
Twenty-goal scorer Rickard Rakell is out with appendicitis but should return for Game 1. Defenceman Sami Vatenen (illness) and goaltender Frederik Andersen (concussion) could return this weekend.
The bigger question marks are defenceman Kevin Bieksa (upper body) and forwards Brandon Pirri (upper body) and David Perron — all new acquisitions this season. Perron was on fire since being traded from Pittsburgh, putting up eight goals and 12 assists in 28 games. He suffered a separated right shoulder and could be out for another five weeks.
The Penguins’ incredible run up the standings has taken place with Evgeni Malkin (upper body) on the shelf. Top-four defenceman Olli Maatta and rookie Bryan Rust (both lower body) are also questionable for Game 1.
No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion at the end of March, tasking rookie Matt Murray with the crease indefinitely.
“[Fleury] is making significant progress, so we’re certainly encouraged by that,” coach Mike Sullivan told reporters Thursday. “He’s an elite goalie. He’s a very good goalie. The more guys that we can get healthy and get back into our lineup, we think it makes us a more competitive team.”
Some serious wreckage in Brooklyn. When he broke his leg Thursday, forward Anders Lee joined a list of the long-term injured that includes No. 1 goalie Jaroslav Halak (groin), top minutes player Travis Hamonic (knee), and forward Mikhail Grabovski (concussion).
Ailments to Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, Brian Strait and J-F Berube are less serious, but still. Yikes.
Captain Steven Stamkos underwent successful blood clot surgery but is out one to three months as he recovers. Defenceman Anton Stralman, whom teammate Ben Bishop calls “our best player the last two years,” broke his leg. Massive losses.
Neither defenceman Victor Hedman (upper body) nor Ryan Callahan (lower body) played in Tampa’s last two games but are hopeful to be ready for Game 1.