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Screen Shots: Landeskog, Injuries Around the League and Puljujarvi

Adam Proteau looks at a handful of notable injuries to start the season around the NHL and the rumors surrounding Jesse Puljujarvi before the campaign kicks off.
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Welcome back to Screen Shots, a regular feature here on THn.com, in which we explore a few hockey topics in smaller written portions. Let’s get right to this week’s batch:

– The defending Stanley Cup-champion Colorado Avalanche revealed this week they’d be without captain and star forward Gabriel Landeskog, quite possibly for the beginning of the upcoming regular season. The 29-year-old had knee surgery in mid-March, but returned in time for the Avs’ dominant playoff run, in which he generated 11 goals and 22 points in 20 games.

In the short term, Colorado head coach Jared Bednar will likely use newly-re-signed winger Valeri Nichushkin on his top forwards line with center Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, but in the highly-competitive Central Division, no team can afford to play without one of their top three forwards for a notable period and not feel the ramifications for it in the NHL standings. The Avalanche did win the Central with a 119-point season, but they did finish just six standings points ahead of the No. 2-in-the-Central Minnesota Wild team, and the St. Louis Blues organization also is likely to challenge for top spot in the division. It’s not written in stone the Avs will maraud over all competition once again, so it’s crucial Landeskog returns, and returns relatively quickly, to keep Colorado at or near the top of the Central.

– Landeskog’s injury was one of many that were announced as NHL training camps got underway. In Toronto, forward Pierre Engvall and defenseman Timothy Lilegren both were sidelined by injuries that will keep them out – in Engvall’s case, until early October; and in Lilegren’s case, for the next six weeks. In Philadelphia, star center Sean Couturier is out of action week-to-week with an upper-body injury – believed to be a herniated disc – and key defenseman Ryan Ellis may miss the entire 2022-23 campaign with hip and core issues that also could threaten his entire professional career.

Unfortunately, injuries are more of a factor in NHL teams’ chances at success than ever before. Earlier this summer, we saw fears in Washington that star center Nicklas Backstrom may be forced to retire because of hip woes. The Boston Bruins will be without stars Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy to start the season. The Vegas Golden Knights won’t have star goalie Robin Lehner and injury-prone youngster Nolan Patrick for the entire year. In Carolina, the Hurricanes will have to play without star forward and new off-season acquisition Max Pacioretty. The list grows just about every day.

Perhaps it’s the condensed schedule that’s causing more NHLers than ever to be injured. Perhaps it’s their year-round conditioning that’s increasing the wear-and-tear on athlete bodies. Perhaps the speed of the game is leading to more health concerns. In any case, there’s a definite fear among NHL GMs and management figures that things may get worse before they get better, and we’ll see roster depth play an even bigger role in the degrees of success teams enjoy.

– Finally, it looks like Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi is doing and saying all the right things at Edmonton’s training camp, but rumors persists he's going to be moved at some point this season. It’s true the Oilers don’t have much quality depth at Puljujarvi’s position of right wing, and he’s going to start the year as Edmonton’s second-line winger alongside superstar center Leon Draisaitl and rugged winger Zach Hyman. But there doesn’t appear to be a long-term future for him with the franchise, and Puljujarvi might be playing the solid citizen in the hope that GM Ken Holland finds a new home for him sooner than later.

As noted above, the plethora of injuries NHL teams are already dealing with as training camp begins might send the asking price for Puljujarvi higher than they are at present. But that’s a notable gamble on Holland’s behalf; the longer Puljujarvi stays in Edmonton, the more possible it is for the young Finn to slump again and have his trade value depreciate. Either way, many of us still suspect Puljujarvi will be traded at, or well before the league’s trade deadline. Too many disappointing days between the player and franchise to have realistic hopes of finally finding a fit for him with the Oilers.

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