With Alex Ovechkin’s injury this week, six surefire Russian Olympians are currently on the shelf – Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Andrei Markov, Anton Volchenkov, Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin.
That’s a lot of stars and it got us thinking about how many top-flight players are currently injured. So we decided to look at the 10 most impactful injuries of the season to date. We only listed players who, as of Wednesday, were designated by the NHL as on the injured reserve list, which means Ovie himself isn’t appearing. Players must also have been injured during the regular season, so Rick DiPietro, Patrik Elias and Marian Hossa don’t make the cut (no pun intended). And we used just one player per team, sorry Milan Lucic.
(By the way, what is it with left wingers and defensemen this season?)
10. David Booth, LW, Florida
Booth led the Panthers with 31 goals in 72 games last season, a big number for a team that finished 17th in goal scoring in 2008-09 and missed the playoffs due to a tie-breaking technicality. If the Cats were a better squad overall, Booth would be higher on this list. He’s sidelined indefinitely with a concussion courtesy a Mike Richards hit.
9. Simon Gagne, LW, Philadelphia
Good thing the Flyers are as deep as any team in the league or Gagne’s hernia surgery would be devastating. He’s an excellent two-way winger and a 2002 Olympic gold medalist who has twice notched 40 goals in a season. He’s expected back in early 2010.
8. Shea Weber, D, Nashville
Weber tied with Sheldon Souray for the second-most goals among blueliners last season with 23 and was an early-season Norris Trophy candidate. Besides his offense, he’s a big hitter with a mean streak who’s capable of shutting down top forwards and is a virtual shoo-in for Team Canada in Vancouver. His foot injury should only keep him out a couple of weeks.
7. Sergei Gonchar, D, Pittsburgh
If young teammate Alex Goligoski wasn’t having such a great start (second in NHL D-man scoring, first overall in plus-minus), Gonchar’s injury would be having a greater effect. But don’t underestimate his loss. Gonchar is a power play point-man and one of the best at making the first pass and skating the puck out of the zone. A broken wrist will keep him out until at least late November.
6. Anton Volchenkov, D, Ottawa
There’s not a lot of room for error in Ottawa and Volchenkov makes up for a lot of errors. He’s a shot-blocking machine who’s also a devastating hitter, but he’s been snake-bitten by injuries in recent seasons. This time around it’s a dislocated elbow. He’s out until late November as well.
5. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Atlanta
The five-time 40-plus goal man’s broken right foot couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Thrashers. Not only are they always life and death to challenge for the playoffs, but GM Don Waddell and company were banking on an improved year for the team as a means of enticing Kovalchuk to sign a contract extension. With him out of the lineup until late November, any improvement in the standings will be hard to come by.
4. Daniel Sedin, LW, Vancouver
Another broken foot has the Canucks searching for firepower. They’re holding their own in the standings, but currently sit just 18th in goals per game. Having the man who’s led the team in goals each of the past three seasons sure would help. They will get him back, but again, not until late November.
3. Johan Franzen, LW, Detroit
If there’s one thing the Red Wings couldn’t afford to lose this season, it was more offense. Free agency defections during the off-season gutted their ability to score; we’re talking three of their top-six and four of their top-10 scoring forwards. Franzen barely got his skates icy this season before going down to a torn ACL in his left knee. He may be back in time for February’s Olympics.
2. Marc Savard, C, Boston
Milan Lucic may be a Beantown cult hero, but Savard is the engine that runs that offense – the Bruins are 27th in goals-per-game this season, they finished second in 2008-09, when Savard finished ninth in NHL scoring (88 points) and sixth in assists (63). He also ended the year plus-25 and showed a new level of maturity. He was off to a point-per-game pace this year, but his broken foot will also keep him out until the end of November.
1. Andrei Markov, D, Montreal
The straw that stirs Montreal’s drink went down 17 minutes and 42 seconds into the season, leaving a gaping hole on the Habs blueline. The man who turned down the team captaincy before the season is one of the best outlet passers in the game and has averaged 54 points the past four seasons – he was second in the league among defensemen last season with 64 points. He is also a top shutdown defender, the type of guy who plays well in any situation. A lacerated Achilles tendon led to surgery and he’ll be out until February.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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