The opening day of World Cup pre-tournament games featured three games, 19 goals, one shutout and a lot of feisty play. However, even with three players suffering knocks, only one appears to have an injury that will keep him out of action.
Europe’s Marian Hossa didn’t play in the third period of Thursday evening’s game against North America and required x-rays following the game, but everything looks good and he’s travelled to Montreal with the team. The Czech Republic’s Vladimir Sobotka was believed to have potentially fractured his collarbone, but coach Josef Jandac said Sobotka could potentially play Saturday against Russia. But Sweden Marcus Kruger, well, he’s going to miss some time.
During Thursday’s pre-tournament opener against Finland, Kruger was forced to miss the nearly the entire final eight minutes of regulation and all of overtime as Sweden was downed 3-2 in overtime. According to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen, Kruger is dealing with an upper-body injury and didn’t practice Friday. ESPN’s Joe McDonald added that Kruger will not suit up Saturday against Finland and Mikael Backlund will skate in his place.
The immediate concern is what the severity of Kruger’s injury is, especially if it has anything to do with the wrist injury that forced the Chicago Blackhawks center to miss half of the 2015-16 season. Kruger dislocated his wrist during a contest against the Edmonton Oilers in December 2015 and didn’t return until March.
That Kruger is slated to miss any time at all, though, could be concerning. Outside of the wrist injury, Kruger has missed one game in the past four years and 11 total since coming into the NHL in 2011-12. The only other long-term injury he has sustained was a concussion back in 2012.
Losing Kruger, who registered just four assists in 41 games this past season, may not seem like a massive hit to the Swedish roster, but there are few players in the league, let alone the World Cup, who possess the ability to drive play as well as Kruger. He’s one of the better shutdown centers in the tournament, and in a best-on-best tournament, he would likely be relied upon for some heavy defensive zone minutes for Sweden.
Replacing Kruger with Backlund will give the Swedish roster more scoring punch, though. Backlund notched 21 goals and 47 points — both career-highs — this past season for the Calgary Flames. The Swedish roster already has a lot of firepower and Backlund is yet another weapon offensively.
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