I try and fit my team previews in between the free agency period and the start of preseason. This is because, once preseason starts, rosters start to change, as injuries and such happen. There have been a couple minor injuries from training camps, but they aren’t likely to bleed into the regular season, which begins in a couple weeks. However, a few key players have gotten injured recently, and they are going to impact the regular season.
First, and most relevant to me as a Red Wings fan, Pavel Datsyuk is injured yet again. He suffered a separated shoulder, and he is expected to miss a month. Datsyuk is still a great player, but he’s been dealing with injuries recently. He only played 45 games last year. Perhaps this isn’t surprising, given his age and his slight frame. However, the Wings are still very reliant on Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Last year, they were injured, and the team barely eked into the playoffs. Now, with Datsyuk destined to miss a few weeks, the problems already are beginning.
On the other side of the age line, there’s Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, who broke his hand. Drouin is considered by many to be the NHL’s best prospect. He was drafted third overall last year, but did not play in the NHL last season. Now, he’s going to be out for three to four weeks, and it makes me wonder what that will mean for him in terms of playing for the Lightning this year. Will they put him right into the lineup? Send him to the AHL? Will he get off to a slow start? Tampa Bay intrigues me, but Drouin was part of that, but this is a minor thing from an overall team prospective.
Now, unfortunately, let us turn our attention to the world of broken legs. Derek Stepan, the New York Rangers’ top center, will miss 4-to-6 weeks with his leg injury. Last year, he scored 17 goals and had a career-high 57 points. Now, everybody has to step up to try and replace Stepan. He’s not a great player, but he’s good, and the Rangers don’t have a lot of offensive talent.
Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes have lost a Staal. The Staal in question? Jordan Staal, even if the headline on ESPN.com just reads “Staal.” Staal has also suffered a broken leg, but his timetable to return is unknown. Staal was brought over to team with his brother on a big contract, and admittedly he hasn’t quite been up to snuff yet. His scoring hasn’t really picked up with more playing time, although he still has defensive skills. The Hurricanes are a hard to read team for me, but the loss of Staal, perhaps for an extended period of time, definitely hurts.