There are a lot of people across the NHL who believe that their players should not play in the Olympics, a number of injuries in Sochi this year may help their case leading up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Here is a quick round-up of key players who were injured in Russia and how long we can expect them to be sidelined:
John Tavares (NYI) – Team Canada
Tavares is the biggest name that was injured overseas. He suffered damage to his MCL and meniscus in his left knee in a collision along the boards vs. Latvia. Tavares will miss the remainder of the NHL season, but does not require surgery, which will shorten his recovery process for the 2014-15 NHL season. As you would expect, Islanders GM Garth Snow is not happy about Tavares being injured in the Olympics. “Are the IIHF and IOC going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now? It’s a joke,” Snow said. “They want all the benefits from NHL players playing in the Olympics and don’t want to pay when our best player gets hurt.” Tavares’ injury will see Frans Nielsen move to the top line (when he is healthy), but with Thomas Vanek very likely to be traded, Nielsen’s value does not recieve much of a boost. It also opens the door for prospect Ryan Strome to play a larger role than he did during his disappointing first recall.
Henrik Zetterberg (DET) – Team Sweden
Zetterberg underwent back surgery Friday to repair a herniated disc. Zetterberg is expected to be out for eight weeks, which means he will miss the rest of the regular season, but could be back for the first round of the playoffs if the Red Wings can qualify without their captain. Zetterberg has been plagued by back issues for several years. He missed 11 games in December due to a slightly herniated disc. The issue caused him to sit out two more games in January. He played just one game for Sweden in the Olympics before withdrawing last Friday due to severe back pain, which he said was “20 times worse” than anything he’d ever experienced.
Ryan Kesler (VAN) – Team USA
Kesler awaits an MRI on his hand that he injured blocking an Ilya Kovalchuk shot in Team USA’s win over Russia on February 15. He played in the final three tournament games for Team USA with his right hand bandaged and sporting a splint. “He was in this morning and had some work done; we’ll see how he is (Tuesday),” said Canucks coach John Tortorella. “I’m not overly concerned about him missing a couple of days of practice.” It does not sound like the injury will cost Kesler a considerable amount of time, but his status for Wednesday’s first game back is uncertain. Expect an update to come on Tuesday.
Fedor Tyutin (CBJ) – Team Russia
Tyutin is expected to miss two to three weeks due to an ankle injury suffered while playing for Russia. Tyutin was placed on injured reserve on Monday. Dalton Prout was recalled from Springfield (AHL) to fill out the Blue Jackets roster.
Paul Martin (PIT) – Team USA
Martin suffered a hand injury in Sochi, but he remains without a timetable. He missed multiple Olympic games with the injury and was spotted wearing a cast on his hand and wrist. They will already be without Kris Letang, so losing Martin further weakens their blueline. Simon Despres, who was recalled on Monday has a great opportunity to showcase his ability with Martin and Letang sidelined.
Aleksander Barkov (FLA) – Team Finalnd
Barkov is out indefinitely after suffering a knee injury while with Team Finland. The good news is that Barkov does not need surgery, which the Panthers originally feared. There is no timetable for Barkov’s return, but with only two months left in the regular season and Barkov expected to miss at least a few weeks, his fantasy value in one-year leagues going forward is extremely limited. Nick Bjugstad, the Panthers’ other impressive rookie pivot, appears set to fill-in for Barkov and center the line with Sean Bergenheim and Brad Boyes.
Mats Zuccarello (NYR) – Team Norway
Zuccarello will miss 3-4 weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his left hand. Zuccarello said he suffered the injury blocking a shot during Norway’s 3-1 loss to Austria (Feb 16). Zuccarello leads the Rangers with 28 assists and 43 points in 58 games this season. “It’s tough, but it’s part of the game so you kind of have to just go with it,” Zuccarello said Friday, wearing a black brace on his left hand. “But obviously it’s nothing you wanted to happen over there. It’s a tough one.”
Editor’s Note: What do you think about NHL players playing in the 2018 Olympics? If you are an Islanders fan, I think I know your answer.