Injuries are a largely unforeseen, completely inevitable reality for every NHL team, and they start to pile up three months into any season. Nearly each of the 30 teams has had some brush with the injury bug, some much worse than others.
The Penguins, for instance, have lost more man-games to injury this season than anybody in the league. The Ducks went through an early season East Coast road trip missing a quarter of their team . . . including both goaltenders. The Lightning lost Steve Stamkos for the majority of the regular season. The Bruins have had Loui Eriksson go in and out of the lineup because of concussions, and suffered a big loss this week when Dennis Seidenberg went down with a torn ACL/MCL in his right knee. The Sharks are missing rookie sensation Tomas Hertl for an undetermined amount of time because of an injury that will cost him his first chance at the Olympics.
It's not just forwards and defensemen, though; in fact, this season could really be called the Year of the Fallen Goaltender. The Blue Jackets and Hurricanes, in addition to Anaheim, lost both their goaltenders for extended periods of time, and the Canucks are moving along without Roberto Luongo. The Predators have been without Pekka Rinne for nearly the entire season. The Kings' Jonathan Quick, the Red Wings' Jimmy Howard and the Panthers' Tim Thomas have been in and out of the lineup for their respective teams all season, and the lingering groin issues might have short-circuited Thomas’ chances for a Team USA Olympic bid.
Some teams have battled on and found solutions in many of the injury cases, while others -- like the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and Predators -- have fallen by the wayside a bit. And it's reflected in this week's power rankings:
30. Buffalo Sabres (11-24-4, last week: 29) -- At least Ryan Miller gets a three-week vacation from this zoo when he heads to Sochi with a team full of Olympians in front of him.
29. Edmonton Oilers (13-24-4, last week: 30) -- I would have thrown my jersey on the ice, too, if I’d paid big money for season tickets behind the glass.
28. New York Islanders (12-21-7, last week: 28) -- Only Edmonton has given up more goals than the Isles this season, and no amount of young, promising offensive talent is going to make up for it.
27. Calgary Flames (14-19-6, last week: 27) -- Two losses in a row and three wins in their last 10 games . . . it's more of the same for the Flames. They’re on the road to nowhere.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (14-16-9, last week: 25) -- The Hurricanes have dropped five in a row, and GM Jim Rutherford has begun making phone calls about trading some of the team's core players. But they’re still only three points out of a playoff spot. Amazing.
25. Florida Panthers (15-20-5, last week: 26) -- When Tomas Fleischmann is your team’s leading scorer, you've got to try and win by any means necessary.
24. Ottawa Senators (17-18-7, last week: 22) -- Ottawa looked like a team searching for reasons to quit in the third period against the Bruins on Friday, but managed to beat the undermanned B’s the next night.
23. Winnipeg Jets (18-18-5, last week: 24) -- The Jets have won a couple of games in a row, but they’ll need to do more than that before we believe Winnipeg is doing anything more than blowing smoke.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets (17-18-4, last week: 20) -- The Blue Jackets are just two points out of the playoffs, and Sergei Bobrovsky and Nathan Horton are poised to return from injuries. The rest of the Metro Division has left the door open for them to make a run.
21. Nashville Predators (18-18-4, last week: 23) -- Pekka Rinne isn’t back and the Preds are sinking deeper into the Western Conference sunset. It’s tough to overcome the loss of your goaltender when the team is built around defense and goaltending.
20. New York Rangers (19-19-2, last week: 18) -- The Rangers aren’t going anywhere unless Henrik Lundqvist finds himself. A win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday was a good start.
19. Minnesota Wild (20-16-5, last week: 15) -- The Wild have lost five games in a row and Zach Parise has landed on injured reserve because of a foot injury. Feeling Minnesota doesn’t mean feeling good right now.
18. New Jersey Devils (16-16-8, last week: 21) -- Is Jaromir Jagr really on pace for 27 goals and 70 points this season? That's fascinating, considering he couldn’t muster one goal in 22 playoff games last spring.
17. Philadelphia Flyers (19-16-4, last week: 17) -- The Flyers have won three in a row and are third in the Metro Division. Another team that basically has all season to get its stuff together.
16. Detroit Red Wings (18-14-9, last week: 15) -- The Wings have lost 7 out of 10 games, and limp into the Winter Classic. Worst of fall, they have to be the most boring team to ever be a part of the 24/7 series.
15. Phoenix Coyotes (19-10-9, last week: 14) -- Tough to rank a team in the top 10 when its goalie smuggles pucks in his pants beyond the goal line for the opposition. Mike Smith, take a bow.
14. Washington Capitals (20-15-5, last week: 12) -- Who is Philipp Grubauer, and what does he do?
13. Dallas Stars (19-12-7, last week: 19) -- The Stars are within five points of a playoff spot in the West. That’s about their lot in life at this point unless they can start beating the big boys more often.
12. Colorado Avalanche (23-11-4, last week 11) -- The Avs have lost four in a row and Patrick Roy is starting to blame the NHL schedule. Denver, we have a problem.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs (20-16-5, last week 11) -- The Leafs have two in a row, and if I didn’t know any better I’d say the HBO cameras have a major crush on Joffrey Lupul.
10. Montreal Canadiens (23-14-3, last week: 10) - Beat the Lightning, then lose 4-1 to the Panthers. The Habs are hard to get a handle on.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (23-12-4, last week: 8) --The Bolts are 11-7-4 without Steve Stamkos in their lineup, but they’ve also dropped a pair of games in a row. They could use him back sooner rather than later.
8. Los Angeles Kings (25-11-4, last week: 4) -- The Kings have lost three in a row to the Stars, Predators and Blackhawks, and pine for the return of Jonathan Quick.
7. Vancouver Canucks (23-11-7, last week: 9) -- Eight wins in their last 11 games means they have no Lack of goaltending depth. Get it . . . ”Lack” of goaltending depth. Boy, we are funny.
6. Boston Bruins (26-11-2, last week: 6) -- The Bruins have survived all their injuries thus far, but losing Dennis Seidenberg really, really hurts. It will be an even bigger loss in the postseason.
5. San Jose Sharks (25-8-6, last week: 3) -- The Sharks have won four in a row, and stopped the Ducks’ winning streak in its tracks. It’s been a very hot and cold season for San Jose.
4. St. Louis Blues (26-7-5, last week: 5) -- The Alex Steen injury is a big one for a Blues team that’s just moving right along right now. But the sum of the parts should be enough to survive the loss of one individual piece in St. Louis.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (29-11-1, last week: 3) -- The Penguins lead the NHL in man-games lost to injury, but still remain among the top dogs in the East. They’re showing that they’re made of something special during this regular season.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (28-7-7, last week: 2) -- The Blackhawks are one hot streak away from the No. 1 spot, especially after the Ducks' winning streak ended last week.
1. Anaheim Ducks (28-8-5, last week: 1) --The Sharks ended Anaheim’s 10-game winning streak, but the Ducks still have Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry scoring up a storm on a well-balanced team.