Whew! Sucks to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL these days. Well, not really, but there have been a number who’ve gone down with injury. And we’re not talking about the Andrei Markovs, Brian Campbells and Mark Streits of the world – guys who are nursing injuries sustained last season or during the pre-season – we’re talking about guys hurt since the puck officially dropped on 2010-11.
This is THN.com’s Top 10 early-season blueline injuries:
The big-bodied third-year man is expected to make a leap this season and began the year averaging 24:04 of ice time on the No. 2 pairing with steady Johnny Oduya. Through three games Bogosian, 20, was pointless, but was also just minus-1, no small feat on the 30th-ranked defensive team. He’s been on the shelf since Oct. 12, when he sustained a shoulder injury versus the Los Angeles Kings.
The rookie somewhat surprised when he made the team out of camp, but with the state of the Ducks’ defense there seemed little choice. Fowler, 18, is an uber-talented kid who showed his offensive promise with a dazzling end-to-end rush against Phoenix Oct. 17. Unfortunately Coyotes captain Shane Doan taught the kid a lesson, driving him into the end boards face first, breaking Fowler’s nose and straining his neck.
Boychuk, 26, has developed into a solid two-way NHLer in the past year and is expected to carry a greater load this season with the departure of Dennis Wideman in the Nathan Horton trade. But Boychuk is out for a month with a fractured arm sustained Oct. 23 when New York Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky slashed him.
Vancouver’s biggest free agent splash of the off-season (six years, $27 million), the 27-year-old Hamhuis went to the Canucks to address a depth need on the blueline that was exposed twice during the past two playoffs against Chicago. He’s listed as day-to-day with a foot injury, but has already missed three games.
Sutton, 35, was signed during the summer to be the big, mean presence the Ducks had been missing since, arguably, the days of Chris Pronger. But the burly blueliner broke his thumb fighting Detroit’s Ruslan Salei during Game 1 of Anaheim’s season and is out until late November or December.
If Detroit didn’t boast a blueline that’s the envy of about 25 other NHL teams, Rafalski would be higher up this list. The 37-year-old was off to a roaring start with two points and a plus-5 rating through two games before a knee injury and subsequent surgery sidelined him indefinitely.
After falling to Montreal in Round 2 of last season’s playoffs the Pens decided they had to shore up their blueline. Michalek, 27, was signed to be the team’s new lunch pail, shutdown defender; blocking a lot of shots, clearing the front of the net and taking the body. He went down with a shoulder injury Oct. 11 and is just now beginning to practise. Currently sitting sixth in goals-against per game, the Pens’ team defense will be scary good upon Michalek’s return.
The Canucks gave up physical winger Steve Bernier, prospect Michael Grabner and a first-rounder (Quinton Howden) to get Ballard, who was already signed to reasonable money and term (six years, $4.2-million cap hit). The 27-year-old is expected to form the corps of the Canucks blueline for years with Hamhuis, but a concussion sustained Oct. 15 against Los Angeles has put those plans on hold. There is no timetable for Ballard’s return.
The Devils’ less controversial summer signing, Volchenkov was to be their next Scott Stevens-type player – a hard-working, hard-hitting, shot-blocking machine. He will be, but is currently sidelined with symptoms (nose and neck) similar to Fowler’s after taking a shot off the visor from Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom. The disappointing Devils desperately need the 28-year-old back patrolling the blueline.
The pre-season favorite for the Norris Trophy is the engine that drives the Kings. However, that engine seized when Doughty, 20, sustained a concussion in a collision with Carolina’s Erik Cole Oct. 20. While Doughty’s still not expected to be out long – perhaps returning as early as Saturday – it’s making everyone in La-La Land and the fantasy world hold their collective breath.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Mondays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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