The Calgary Flames’ season starts in less than three weeks, and the lack of a contract for star winger Johnny Gaudreau might not be the only issue facing the club with training camp only days away.
According to multiple reports, including TSN and Swedish outlet Expressen.se, Flames center Mikael Backlund has suffered a concussion that will keep him out of action for the remainder of the World Cup, and he’ll be evaluated by Flames team doctors before he gets back into action.
The hit that injured Backlund came midway through Sweden’s round robin game against Finland. As he was trying to chip the puck up and out of the Swedish zone, Backlund was hit high and hard by Finnish defenseman Sami Lepisto, and he immediately skated to the bench. Surprisingly, Lepisto was not handed a penalty for his hit, but instead given matching roughing minors for the dustup with Sweden’s Gabriel Landeskog following the collision.
— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) September 20, 2016
Backlund wound up taking just one more shift for the entire game and he didn’t see the ice for the final 6:27 of the contest, and the worry about his health increased Wednesday when he was ruled out of action ahead of Sweden’s overtime loss to Team North America.
Losing Backlund would be awful news for the Flames ahead of the campaign, especially if the injury costs him any time during the regular season. While the No. 1 center role undoubtedly belongs to Sean Monahan, Backlund has come into his own as a second-line pivot over the past few seasons and he’s coming off of arguably his best season in the NHL.
This past season, Backlund scored 21 goals and 47 points — both career highs — but his offense almost comes second to his ability to play a full-ice game. Even on a Flames team that has poor possession numbers, Backlund has managed to be a play-driving center and responsible at both ends of the ice while maintaining his offensive punch.
It wouldn’t be shocking if Backlund is being held out of the remainder of the tournament even on a precautionary level. The Panthers recently brought defenseman Aaron Ekblad back to Florida after he suffered a possible concussion, and Calgary exercising the same level of caution wouldn’t be shocking.
If Backlund is forced to miss any time due to injury, it would be yet another in a laundry list of ailments he has had to deal with. Since the lockout-shortened season, Backlund has missed 14 games with a knee injury, five games with a hand injury and 29 games due to an abdominal ailment. His stellar campaign this past season was in large part due to him being able to remain healthy, as he skated in all 82 games for Calgary in 2015-16.
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