James van Riemsdyk’s second game back as a Philadelphia Flyer, his second meaningful game into a five-year, $35-million pact he signed as a free agent this summer, will be his last for at least five weeks.
After re-debuting with the Flyers on Thursday, returning to the team that drafted him 11 years ago, and registering an assist against the Vegas Golden Knights, ‘JVR’ was forced to leave Philadelphia’ Saturday contest against the Colorado Avalanche having suffered an apparent lower-body injury. Little was known about van Riemsdyk’s status throughout the weekend, but Monday, the Flyers announced that the winger will be out for five to six weeks, a significant period of time that puts his return date somewhere in early- to mid-November. On the shorter end of the scale, van Riemsdyk could be back in action come the week of Nov. 5 or sometime the following week when Philadelphia is in the midst of a five-game homestand.
The injury is a significant blow to the depth of the Flyers’ lineup. Philadelphia acquired van Riemsdyk, who scored 35 goals last season, to inject some offense into the middle of the lineup and some life into what was a middling power play last season. In his limited action thus far, van Riemsdyk has been skating primarily alongside Wayne Simmonds and rookie Mikhail Vorobyev, and Michael Raffl seems to be the most likely replacement.
Van Riemsdyk isn’t the only player to have suffered a significant knock in the opening days of the campaign, however. One of the Flyers’ Metropolitan Division rivals, the Columbus Blue Jackets, will also be without one of their middle-of-the-lineup producers as the injury Brandon Dubinsky suffered during Sunday’s practice is more serious than initially feared. In fact, Dubinsky’s ailment, an oblique injury, is set to put him on the shelf for four to six weeks.
As difficult as the loss of Dubinsky will be for the Blue Jackets, too, it’s even worse for Dubinsky who was looking primed to shake off last season’s poor performance and return to form. He had found the scoresheet in each of Columbus’ first two contests, registering an assist in the opener against the Detroit Red Wings and a goal in the second outing against the Carolina Hurricanes. And given Dubinsky struggled mightily last season to the tune of six goals and 16 points in 62 games, the point-per-game start to his campaign was exactly what he needed. The injury, however, throws a wrench in what could have been a big bounce back year.
With Dubinsky on the shelf, Riley Nash appears likely to be elevated up the depth chart into a third-line center role and step into Dubinsky’s now-former spot between Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson. Meanwhile, Lukas Sedlak is the best candidate to slot onto the fourth line.
The Metropolitan isn’t the only division a bit banged up after the opening week, as the first handful of games has put a notable member from each of the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames on the sidelines.
For the Sharks, their first victory of the season also came with some post-game concern when Joe Thornton experienced some swelling in the knee he had surgically repaired over the off-season. Thornton, who had a helped in 14 minutes of ice time in the Friday night win, was a surprise addition to the injured reserve on Sunday. There is some good news, though, as Thornton’s ailment appears to be nothing serious. The swelling isn’t related to anything structural, and is instead related to an infection that Thornton is now taking antibiotics to hopefully clear in short order. Listed as day-to-day, the Sharks are hoping he’ll be back in the lineup sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Flames blueliner Travis Hamonic, whose opening night tilt with the Vancouver Canucks’ Erik Gudbranson took its toll.
Hamonic took exception to a jolt Gudbranson gave to Flames rookie Dillon Dube on Wednesday night, but during a tilt between the two defensemen, Gudbranson connected hard with a shot that left Hamonic clutching his face. Amid concerns about a possible facial injury, though, Hamonic returned to the contest and skated 14:35. But it wasn’t long after opening night that the Flames announced Hamonic will be sidelined week-to-week, and it has since been confirmed that he suffered a facial fracture.
The timeline for Hamonic’s return is no more specific than that, though the Flames are hoping he can return sooner rather than later. While Calgary split their home-and-away set with the Canucks, the Flames let up nine goals in two games. That’s in part, of course, on netminder Mike Smith, but more minutes had to be thrust upon rookie Juuso Valimaki and bruiser Dalton Prout on Saturday night.
When it comes to Pacific Division ailments, though, there is one injury that has a silver lining. Ahead of the campaign, Los Angeles Kings winger Dustin Brown, who had an excellent 2017-18 and was looking to follow that up with another statement season, was put on the shelf with a broken finger suffered during the exhibition schedule. The worst was initially feared, that Brown would miss months before being able to return to action, but it turns out that won’t be the case. Delivering an update before the weekend, Kings coach John Stevens said Brown will be out “weeks, and not months,” according to Jon Rosen.
STARTERS ON THE SHELF
Roberto Luongo came into the campaign with his sights set on climbing a few all-time lists. For instance, he was on target to pass Patrick Roy on the games played list by the time December rolled around, Luongo sat a few wins short of surpassing Ed Belfour for third all-time in wins and the Panthers netminder needs only one shutout to move into sole possession of ninth in NHL history. But after battling nagging injuries last season, the 39-year-old keeper has once again found himself on the shelf.
In his debut Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Luongo was only able to play little more than half an outing before suffering what has since been diagnosed as a Grade 1 MCL injury. And while it’s only a somewhat minor knock, it does stand to put Luongo on the shelf anywhere from two-to-four weeks. In the interim, starting duties will rest in the capable hands James Reimer, while Michael Hutchinson was recalled from the AHL to fill the backup role.
Luongo has been joined on the injured list by two other keeps, as well. In the Kings’ opener against the Sharks on Friday, Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick stopped 30 of the 33 shots that were thrown his way in an overtime loss. As the Kings prepared for their Sunday contest against the Red Wings, though, Quick suffered a lower-body injury and has since been placed on the injured reserve. He has been listed as day-to-day, but there’s definite concern given Quick missed nearly the entire 2016-17 campaign due to a groin injury.
Adding to the crease woes throughout the NHL, too, is an injury to Scott Darling. The Hurricanes netminder, who is in desperate need of a bounce back season after an atrocious start to his tenure in Carolina, was injured prior to the start of the campaign, but it’s been announced that he’ll be out on a week-to-week basis as he battles a lower-body ailment. In his stead, Petr Mrazek has gotten the call for the Hurricanes, but Carolina may be getting desperate for Darling’s return already given his replacement has posted an .841 save percentage on 44 shots through two games.