His "upper body injury" is a sore shoulder. He could shoot, but the Penguins were worried about him taking a hit and setting things back. Sources tell me that it's not a serious issue, just a "ding" - which likely indicates a bruise or at worst a minor separation. I'd lean towards the low end of that scale since he can shoot. Sykora's not expected to miss much time, but Evgeni Malkin did seem affected by not having him on the same line. If anything, that could make Malkin shoot more. Sykora's got a tendency to be a bit streaky anyway, but his twelve minutes on ice are as hard for the Pens to replace as his nearly two points per sixty minutes.
Khabibulin is back, but he's just a backup for the Blackhawks, so why ranked so high? Groin injuries and goalies are the opposite of chocolate and peanut butter - they're two things that just don't go well together. It takes longer for goalies to heal to the point where they can be effective because of the physical demands of the position. The quick lateral movements are universal, but for butterfly goalies, it takes on an even bigger importance. One interesting thing to note is that it's believed by one of my top sources that shots on goal might be a predictor of groin injuries. He explained that the more opportunities means more demand for quick movements and that one "a bit too much" move that strains the groin. Given Khabibulin's 36-save shutout in which he first injured himself, it holds true here. This is one of those things to watch as we learn how to measure risk.
And here is data point number two, amplified. Vesa Toskala put on a great performance, making 49 saves in an overtime win, but injured his hip in the same game. Toskala underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip and is done for the season. This is the same type of injury that is getting so much attention with Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Chase Utley of the Phillies. They key point to note here is that a torn acetabular (hip) labrum isn't a new injury, but it takes a contrast MRI to diagnose. It presents as groin pain, often, and many doctors now believe that chronic groin strains may actually be a misdiagnosis. It's quite possible that we'll see more of this in the future. Toskala should be back for next season with no real deficit.
Another one? Yes, Evgeni Nabokov is also out with a groin strain, leaving the Sharks hoping that Brian Boucher can keep the puck out of the net while Nabokov heals. He was quoted as saying that he wanted to be 100% before getting back out there, indicating that this was more serious than originally thought. That puts the Sharks in a tough position. While they want and need Nabokov to be as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs, they also appear to need him to hold on to that #1 seed. I'll leave it to one of our numbers guys to tell us how important seeding really is, but the perception is that it's huge. The Sharks have five games over the next week, taxing everyone and perhaps forcing them to push Nabokov back a bit before he feels ready.
Groin injuries don't just hit goalies. For players like Daniel Briere, a simple groin strain can ruin a season. The Flyers forward has always been a consistent, if unexciting player, but he's missed most of the season after his early season injury. The team has been very cautious in slowly bringing him back, but think that he could be back as soon as Thursday evening. The worst part of this for the team was the re-injury just after coming back in early March, something a medical staff tries to avoid since nothing makes them look worse. They'll hold him back to let him get back into the flow of things, so don't expect much from him in production. The Flyers do hope that Briere's return puts him in position to help come playoff time, but they also hope he'll help them hold on to their fourth seed.
The Blackhawks were smart enough to know that Martin Havlat just can't stay healthy, but if he did, good things might happen. While he's always had the talent to be a big scorer, he's never been available enough to really put up the numbers. That makes him a fine player to have as a secondary option, but not one you count on. This season, he's been mostly healthy, which is both a credit to the team and their medical staff and the team's third leading scorer. His most recent injury is relatively minor, a deep bruise on his quad which is painful, but not something that takes a long time to heal up. Havlat isn't reliant on his speed, so he should not only be back out quickly but back to effectiveness quickly.
You'll probably get sick of hearing me harp on and on about concussions, but across sports - and especially in youth sports, it's a serious problem. Even the term "concussion" gets in the way of treating them seriously. Something like "brain trauma" is better, but generic. While in hockey, most think of Eric Lindros, the problem is far more widespread despite the NHL's best efforts. Players themselves continue to resist helmet and shield rules, but without them, the bigger/stronger/faster players of the modern game would be laying by the wayside. The one area where helmets don't help is in fights. The Red Wings are learning this as they've lost Andreas Lilja long term and likely for the season. He's continuing to experience severe headaches more than a week after a fight. For a guy who was back on the ice in less time than that after an appendectomy, it's a reminder of how serious a problem this is. Sadly, his nickname of "Pain Train" is holding a whole different meaning right now.
The second in this week's concussion pack, Burns is a solid young defenseman with a well-rounded game. Of course, concussions don't care about age or promise. The downside here is that symptoms are lingering, the indication of a more serious problem. While everyone knows that concussions can be cumulative, getting worse and worse as they're collected, even one concussion can be bad enough to create symptoms that can end a career. At best, a severe concussion's symptoms of vertigo, nausea, and headache are enough to not only keep someone off the ice, but to affect their daily living. Burns will be monitored closely, but there's no timetable on a return. Kudos to the Wild for shutting him down to protect him.
Broken bones heal. It's one of the rules of the medhead mindset. While muscle strains and ligament sprains are often difficult to assess because of their varying degrees, a broken bone is mostly just a broken bone. That rule is challenged when it's a devastating break like the one Kurtis Foster took when he was thrown and twisted into the boards last year. It's been nearly a year since his femur was fixated and Foster's still not quite ready to return. The Wild say that the hard-shooting defensemen is being held back more by rust than by injury now, but that the rules allowing only a 14-day minor league rehab didn't give Foster enough time to get back into game readiness. They won't rush him back, but his shot makes him one to watch for next year.
I could have picked one of twenty players here, since flu and flu-like symptoms are making their rounds through the league. Living in close quarters with a bunch of guys, especially ones with some iffy hygiene habits, makes things like flu and other illnesses an issue, as well as bigger issues like MRSA. Team medical staffs have to always be on the lookout for this and are limited in what they can do besides trying to isolate players when possible and using an increased focus on cleanliness and hygiene to limit what can be a serious, even deadly problem. Rinne's been a revelation for the Predators this season, so they don't like missing him even for a game, though the team is worried that he's wearing down some.